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.