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Pink cotton candy

July 29, 2009

“Games and sports are the best ways to get to know a person”, my mother believed. So do many with her. For next to revealing our true colours, games also positively influence the development of memory, processing information, reasoning and creative skills. Just to name a few. That’s why it’s a favourite with educators.

Primary school teachers use games the first day of school as a method to recap knowledge gained the year before and to ease the children into the unfamiliar curriculum and class.

Trainers use game based learning methods to introduce course members to each other. They also quite often break the monotony of their courses to do ‘playful’ exercises and recaps. An example of using games as a tool in the different stages of the learning process: as a motivation element, complementing the course or used as a revision element at the end.

But there are also other reasons for using games in an informal learning situation. On Wednesday July 29, I started my shift as a volunteer with the Summer Games 2009 in my small home town. The games are held here every year. This year the foundation I’m with, Traverse, is part of it for 3 weeks. As of Tuesday July 28.

With the various games Traverse put together, she aims at an age group of primary school children and those up to 14 years of age. We have games like one-on-one football, relay races and a huge inflatable outdoor ‘jungle gym’. For the younger ones there are workshops on grease paint, juggling and making shapes with balloons.

In between the activities, the children treat themselves to pink cotton candy and lemonade. The overall objective is to give the children a recreational summer.

Generally, when games are used as a learning method, it’s a part of a total concept. This concept contains learning objectives, description of the learning methods used and reflective feedback. When you look at it this way, the Summer Games are not exactly ‘educational’. Yet we can’t ignore the fact that the children subconsciously do acquire some major important personal skills.

Take for instance jumping around and competing on the jungle gym. Doing this a child learns perseverance and to compete with others in a healthy way. Playing relay races teaches them to work with restrictions and the value of teamwork. And making balloon shapes, trains the analytical senses in judging perspectives and forms.

Thinking over the day, I recognise that as parents, educators and community workers, we have our work cut out for us. We are responsible for creating and supporting social awareness with children and stimulating their emotional intelligence.

We are the ones responsible for cultivating functional adults who not only survive in our society, but also contribute to it in a positive way. In the end, if you can use games to do this, I say go with it!

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