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Weekly Challenge # 16: Winter Games – First Peoples Style

January 5, 2014


At this time of year it is easy to say we should forget heading outdoors and eagerly await the spring calls of the Red-winged Blackbird or spring peepers.

We’d be doing a disservice not only to ourselves but to our students as well by doing this though. Students know how to dress and enjoy the winter to avoid a number of months of hibernation and Vitamin D deficiency hiding from the sun.

Winter can be a great time to work on stamina by cross country skiing or snowshoing. If unsure about purchasing your own, it is easy to rent a few pairs from your local nature centre first.

However, winter can also be a great time to work on our dexterity as well. Our First Peoples knew this. And for many years I would take my Beaver and Cub Scout groups out for Winter excursions. When we did, it was not difficult trying to find activities for the kids to play even with mitts or gloves on children can work on. We did not have to look farther than the games played by North America’s First People.

If you are looking for your students to develop their hand-eye coordination in a fresh air setting look no further than at games such as Chunkey. This game was traditionally played outdoors with a large rolling stone. As the “wheel” rolled along the ground or ice, kids would strive to throw spears or another item to the area where they thought the wheel would finally rest. Whoever was closest to that spot would win.

One of my 5-7 year old Beavers favourite games was the activity called Snow Snake. See the photo at the top of the post for an example of a snow snake. There is a great Iroquois video from YouTube here showing it in action with a short story to go with it. A large stick with a weighted head (often looking like a head of a bird or snake) is thrown down a polished snowy/icy track. kids learn fairly quickly unique and creative ways of throwing the snow snake.

Other games would include throwing a “spear” (or anything I suppose) through a rolling hoop (for today’s classes perhaps a rolling hula hoop) or a simple version of Canada’s National Sport – Lacrosse where the students, in mitts and full winter gear need to run and catch a small ball or other item to score a goal. I’ve read that in some original versions there was a lack of boundaries and even an unlimited number of players which was to represent the night sky and the never-ending number of stars.

In the first few weeks back from winter break – don’t be afraid to bring your students outdoors for some physical education. If studying the First Peoples or Aboriginal ways in your curriculum, or even if you are not … I challenge you to have your students learn some of these wondrous games.

Have fun!


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