By Mitch Craib
Special to the Messenger
It was a Walking Wednesday, and as I led my walking school bus to St. Albans City School the first student that joined me started talking excitedly about playing gaga ball at recess. He described it as the “number one” student choice for what to do during recess time. He is right. I have observed dozens of gaga ball games and classroom groups gravitate towards the game and they universally love the experience.
Gaga ball is a new playground option at St. Albans City School thanks to a generous grant supplied by RiseVT over the summer. Their funds helped us purchase a 20 foot diameter octagonal fence that forms the “pit” which was assembled with a few hours of labor. In this pit a variation of dodgeball is played with a light-weight plastic ball. The aim of gaga ball is to eliminate players from the pit by using hands to hit the ball onto others legs below the knees. The pace of the game is fast, and 20 players typically reduces to one “winner” in just a couple of minutes. Then everyone jumps back in and the action continues. Kids return to the building after recess with pink faces and plenty of exercise achieved.
The new pit sits at the top of the small hill beside the playground. The term gaga comes from the Hebrew word “ga” meaning “hit” or “touch”. Where did the idea of gaga ball for St. Albans City School come from? We were on the lookout for fun, safe, effective options for organized play. With over 700 hundred students wanting to play on the playground, sharing equipment during peak hours was intimidating for our littlest children and challenging for our mindful teachers. Westford was the first local school to install a gaga pit followed closely by Alburgh. Their experiences with gaga ball were all very positive. We decided to try the game as well.
Teachers were able to familiarize themselves with the game during their August inservice before students returned. A one hour recess time was built into the inservice schedule so that staff could try several fun activities including gaga ball, four square, croquet and other games. Gaga ball proved to be a huge draw for the adults as well. The teachers learned what to do and how to promote the game. As with any game, there needs to be rules. Installation of a metal RULES sign bolted to the side of the pit added to the games success by eliminating all kinds of arguments over how the game should be played. Everyone knows what to do and games proceed smoothly.
The installation of the gaga pit has been a huge win for our School, our students and our staff. Many of our 4th through 8th grade students choose the fast-paced game of gaga over any of the other playground options. Not to mention the “big” kids (known as teachers) that join them in the fun!
Mitch Craib is the Stewardship Coordinator at St. Alban City School.