Learning to Play, Playing to learn

Allen Affleck

For the past six years I have been teaching at Jack Miner Public School, a small rural school located about 40 kilometres from Windsor. Our student body  is  quite  culturally  homogenous,  and  as teachers we are always looking for ways to introduce them to multiculturalism. I  saw the Right To Play program as an outstanding opportunity for the students in my class to learn about various cultures and celebrate our differences.

Right To Play has created a new curriculum called  Learning to Play, Playing to Learn, which combines  playing,  learning,  and  laughing  to make Canadian children active, build character, and create engaged global citizens. The resource is available on the website righttoplay.com.

The Playbook and CD provide approximately 50 games that have been tested by professionals. They are practical, can be adjusted to fit any age or skill level, and have a crosscurricular focus.

This week my Junior physical education classes learned  that  while  immunization  is  a  normal part of life in Canada, some developing countries report measles as a leading cause of preventable death among children. After a lively discussion on  viruses, my  students played a  game called Immunization Tag in which the viruses (ITs) try to tag children; however, if a child is holding one of the green balls  (Vaccines) they are immune from being tagged.

More than just physical education and daily physical activity

The resource is not limited to physical education and daily physical activity (DPA). There are 16 lesson plans equipped with reproducible activity sheets that will help you fulfill curriculum expectations in social studies,  science, and language arts. Earlier this year, student teachers from the University of Windsor Faculty of Education used the  Playbook  to  teach  about  multiculturalism and talked about their own Pakistani and Indian heritages and backgrounds. They discussed some of the games that are played in their home countries and their  similarity to the ones played by the children at Jack Miner Public School. The children were extremely motivated to learn more about other cultures and to play the games that are played around the globe.

Outside  our  classroom  is  a  display  that  is called the Right to Play Wall of Fame. The children can earn a  spot on the Wall of Fame in a couple of ways. In order to get their photo taken and placed on the wall, they must do something during  phys. ed.,  DPA, or  a  recess game that epitomizes the spirit of fair play and good sportsmanship.

Right To Play Day

We are currently planning a Right To Play Day fundraiser. The Playbook describes it as “an opportunity to discuss the importance of sport and play, and to learn about games that other children play in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. [It] will also encourage children to think globally and act locally by incorporating a [fundraiser] – a chance for kids to help other kids.” Plans for the day are laid out in the CD.

For the teacher/organizer an advantage of a Right To Play Day fundraiser is that it can be offered on a scale that meets the needs of your class or school. Within minutes of deciding to implement a Right To Play Day I had the support of colleagues, administrators, parents, and students. The students in my homeroom class are eager to be Right To Play ambassadors and love the idea of having the power to help those less fortunate. After all, in the words of the Right To Play slogan, “When Children Play, the World Wins.”

About Right To Play

Founded  by  four-time  Olympic  gold  medallist Johann Olav Koss, Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses the power of sport to change the lives of children in disadvantaged areas around the world. As he travelled the world, Koss, a Norwegian speed  skater,  found  that  people  everywhere loved sport. He was inspired to create an organization that builds on the love of sport and play to improve health and education and to build peace in disadvantaged communities.

Today  Right  To  Play  works  in  over  20  countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, teaching life skills, conflict  resolution, and health lessons,  including  HIV  and  AIDS  prevention  and the  importance  of  immunization.  Right To  Play headquarters are in Toronto.

Koss appeals to other athletes who have benefited from sport to become Right To Play ambassadors and to help  raise awareness and funding for  Right To Play  projects.  Canadian  ambassadors include hockey stars Wayne Gretzky and Joe Thornton,  skier  Beckie  Scott,  and  speed  skater Clara  Hughes,  who  donated  $10,000  after  winning a gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics.


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