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Teachers sigh, miniature toys fly

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Fingerboards might be "tight," but many teachers find them disruptive.

Santa left tiny skateboards, bicycles and skis under many Christmas trees. But when school begins next week, teachers may confiscate them.

They are called fingerboards, miniatures of the real thing. And, as the name implies, each one needs only a finger to set it on its way.

"They entertain you," said Lucas Kobitter, 11, a sixth-grader at Safety Harbor Middle School. "If you're bored, you can play with them. It's something to do."

But teachers say students already have something to do in school: learn. Some are so worn out by all the flipping, clicking and clacking, all they can muster is a sigh.

Others, such as George Lindsay, an earth science teacher at Safety Harbor Middle, resort to confiscation. He and others have collected the replicas of much larger toys in their drawers and locked them away in their personal closets.

"The only reason we take these is because you're supposed to be on topic," Lindsay said recently to one of his earth science classes.

Safety Harbor assistant principal Jim Cox has about a half-dozen of the toys. He would gladly return them to their rightful owners, but few ever show up at his door to claim them.

Students just buy new ones.

At about $4 a pop, they come with working wheels and their own screwdriver and wrench. Students say fingerboards are popular at the school because the city is a haven for skaters. And where there are skaters, there are bound to be fingerboard enthusiasts mimicking their tricks.

C.C. Watson, 11, demonstrated.

With a quick tap of two fingers, she sent a tiny skateboard soaring into the air, where it flipped several times before landing on a library table.

"It's all about big air," the sixth-grader said.

She is part of a culture that has developed around these tiny toys.

Students say fingerboards are "tight" and "off the chain," both terms for "cool." Students flash them to other students in the hall, and they congregate in school stairwells, popular sites for tricks, to show off their latest buy or newest stunt.

"You can find friends with these," said Darcey Grainer, 12, who is in seventh grade at Safety Harbor Middle.

It doesn't stop there. Ten bucks will buy a plastic ramp. Serious fans will pay $20 for a skate park. There, students can do tricks, such as grinding, kick flips and other names borrowed from tricks performed on the life-sized skateboards.

"The good thing about these things is you don't have to wear a helmet," said Jeff Muntges, 11.

The trend has cooled a bit, but students say it may warm up again as a smaller contraption called the mini fingerboard becomes increasingly popular. About half the length of a fingerboard and much skinnier, the mini has invaluable qualities.

"Teachers can't see what you're playing with," Darcey said.