Moose, Elephant, Walrus

POSTED ON BEHALF OF ANNSLEIGH CARTER

This week, I tried to look at games and activities that could be done with elementary school children. I work at an elementary school and sometimes work with children in the extended day program. I (and probably the children) get bored with playing Tag and Sharks and Minnows over and over again, so I wanted to try to find some fun activities that also promote peace and collaboration. I found a website called peacefirst.org, which has a “Digital Activity Center.” Here is the link: http://www.peacefirst.org/digitalactivitycenter/resources/search. I have already passed this along to my school to use, and I will be sharing a few of the activities at our next staff meeting.

I like this resource because you can narrow down your search by selecting your age group, type of activity, skills you want to promote, and then a theme. The themes and skills are all aligned with those that we have been studying in the class. I think this is a really great, well-varied database, but I was instantly drawn to a game with a fun-sounding name: Moose Elephant Walrus. (http://www.peacefirst.org/digitalactivitycenter/node/295).

This game is geared towards elementary students, and falls under the themes of “Friendship, Inclusion/Exclusion.” To start, you have the kids make a circle. You demonstrate for them how to make a moose, an elephant, and a walrus with three people. Here is how the site tells you to make the animals using only three people:

Moose: The person in the middle places the thumbs of their open hands to their temple, creating moose antlers.  However, moose have extremely large antlers, so the people on either side hold up their hands (with fingers spread out) adjacent to the middle antlers.

Elephant: The person in the middle sticks one arm straight out in front of them to create the trunk.  The people on either side use both of their arms to create the elephant’s ears.

Walrus: The person in the middle tucks their fists up under their neck, letting their elbows jut out to form tusks and their fingers point down to form whiskers. The people on either side lean in then clap their hands to the outside, creating flippers.

So, one person stands in the middle, spins around and then stops and points to someone in the circle. The pointer yells out one of these animals and counts to three. The person pointed to and the people on either side of that person must make that animal within three seconds. If one of the three fails to make the animal in three seconds, he/she becomes the pointer. That way, the circle is moving, the children have to work with different people, and they all get to be silly.

The lesson plan provides the following debriefing questions: “What happened during the game? What did we find out about how to play the game successfully? How can we use what we learned through this experience in situations outside of the game?” I think these are really good questions, but I might add a few to unpack them further, such as “What did it feel like to be the person who got picked? What did it feel like to be the person who had to go in the middle? Was this game fun, and if so or if not, why? Do you feel like you got to know the people in your class better from this game?”

It would not be hard to find activities on this site that promote all 7 pillars of peace, but I think “Moose Elephant Walrus” promotes Community Building and Nurturing Emotional Intelligence. It promotes community building because the goal of this game is to work together. It forces children to work with whoever is next to them (hopefully different people throughout the game), which creates opportunities to get to know different people in a fun way. This game fits the Nurturing Emotional Intelligence pillar because it focuses on ideas of friendship and inclusion. It demonstrates how it feels good to be included when you’re not the one who’s “out,” as well as the anxiety you might feel when you are “out.” There is also sort of a yogic element to this game because kids get to stand up and use their bodies.

I think that if you wanted to do this same type of activity for high school aged kids who would be turned off by the cuteness of this particular game, the equivalent might be the game Sarah Jackson introduced to our class in which students have to group themselves together in the number that the teacher calls out. These games share ideas of community building and emotional intelligence, but are geared towards different age groups.

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4 thoughts on “Moose, Elephant, Walrus

  1. But really, can we play this in class? I love how each student is valuable in making the animal. Students have to cooperate in order to be successful.

    The database is incredible. I quickly changed the setting for a group that i work with on campus and it came up with some great ideas to include to make communication and engagement easier. I also like Adam’s remix to give the students a chance to create their own animals to encourage creativity.

  2. I’m with Adam on this one..can we play this in class? It reminded me of a game called “Ship Captain” that I used to play in P.E. Here’s a link to that game: http://www.teampedia.net/wiki/index.php?title=Captain's_Coming!
    This game is a little more involved (more cues, and different numbers in each partner group..requires some memory) and may be best for middle or high schoolers, but could promote the same type of learning and discussion this activity.
    When I have facilitated Ship Captain in the past, some students have difficulty remembering all the commands, so Moose Elephant Walrus is a great alternative and simplified version for young learners. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Can we play this in class?

    I love how this encourages students to work together, and I certainly appreciate your suggestion for how to modify if for high school.

    For students interested in going a step further, could you have the students create other animals in teams of three? This could encourage students’ critical thinking, but would also get them to create together.

    For successive attempts at the game in class, students could have more options to go with, or, perhaps, temporarily add one to the options for future games.

  4. This is a great resource and I love how it’s set up- so user friendly- to target exactly what you want. I love the idea of closing/opening rituals, especially with younger students. My friend had a rule in her classroom one year called the ‘3 H’s’ as an exit ritual in which her students had to give her a handshake, high five or a hug before they walked out the door at the end of the day (they would line up at the door on their way out to make sure that everyone was accounted for and participated). I always thought that was a great way to make sure to have some kind of physical contact with all students before they leave in a way in which they feel most comfortable. It sends kids home on a positive note and allows for everyone to feel recognized even if they had a bad day or felt left out in something earlier on.

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