Riverside's good sports hit big time

April 24, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

It might not have the notoriety of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, but to the students at Riverside Elementary in Joppa, it's the next best thing.

They posed and primped Wednesday for the magazine's counterpart, Sports Illustrated for Kids -- in school clothes, of course -- as part of an article scheduled to appear in July.

The 25 students climbed on top of a jungle gym on the playground, giggling, mugging for the camera and trying not to step on each other.

"It's fun," said Donald Schlissler, 11. "We got out of class."

The students also got their Andy Warhol dose of 15 minutes of fame: a photo and article in a national publication for debating the question, "Should Michael Jordan play professional baseball?"

The biggest problem was choosing who would be in the photo, since all 41 fifth-graders in two classes who participated in the debate couldn't squeeze into one shot. "We drew names out of a hat," said physical education teacher Chris Cook.

It was Mr. Cook who initiated getting the children's contribution into the magazine. "I thought why can't our kids do that?" he said.

In February, he wrote to the magazine asking if Riverside could take part in a debate feature that runs each month. He got a quick response, but for a different assignment. The magazine wanted the students to write letters to pro basketball player Charles Barkley.

"They got to play reporter," Mr. Cook said.

Of the 50 students' responses, three are printed in the April issue.

The students were interested in knowing who Mr. Barkley's role models are -- "his mother and grandmother," he answered -- and why he didn't want to be a role model for kids -- "parents should be bigger role models than professional athletes."

L Next, came an invitation from the magazine to hold a debate.

"We get lots and lots of requests," said Ben Kaplan, a reporter who helps in the magazine's selection process. He credits Mr. Cook's enthusiasm for the magazine's interest in Riverside.

As for the topic, that's usually picked by the magazine, said Cathrine Wolf, a senior editor.

The students had definite opinions about Mr. Jordan's role as a minor-league baseball player when they gathered in the school gym April 11 to debate his new career. The cons edged out the pros 27-14.

That doesn't bother 10-year-old Lakiesha Turner, who still thinks Mr. Jordan should be able to pursue whatever field he wants. "No one should stop fulfilling his dream," she said. Unless the manager fires him, she added.

Donald, on the con side, thinks Mr. Jordan is taking other people's jobs and only got on the baseball team because he's famous.

But to Donald, the best part of the debate was that "you got to listen to people and argue."

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