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Jumping in Time to a Global Rhyme

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A group of Illinois 4th and 5th graders has discovered that when it's time to jump rope, children around the globe move to the same tunes.

Last spring, the students, at Teutopolis (Ill.) Elementary School, volunteered to help Carol Schafer, the school district's computer coordinator, gather data on jump rhymes for her computer class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While the students interviewed retired jump-ropers in their neighborhoods, Ms. Schafer sought more jingles via electronic bulletin boards, hoping to compare the northern and southern parts of the state.

Instead, more than 300 jingles poured in from all 50 states as well as from Jamaica, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Botswana.

"The interesting thing is that 15 to 20 of them are exactly alike, even though they came in from all over,'' she says. "They are the same jingles kids are singing today.''

She thinks that most jingles originated in Ireland and Germany and traveled with immigrants. A few of the most enduring tunes include "Down in the Meadow,'' "Cinderella,'' and "Teddy Bear.''

The jingles have served as a springboard for cross-cultural exchanges between her students and their new computer pen pals overseas.

"My students have realized that all kids are the same everywhere,'' she says. "Underneath the skin and the clothes and the religion, they all have the same worries, like 'Is my backpack cool?'.''

This process, she says, taught her students higher-order thinking skills. "They learned that the written word is nondiscriminatory,'' Ms. Schafer says. "They learned about real communication through writing.''--M.D.

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