Last September, Dominique Desmoreaux, a substitute teacher and parent of a child at L’École Mer-et-Montagne came to school principal Marc Vézina with an idea.
“He had been in Europe somewhere, I guess, and brought this to me,” Vézina says.
What “this” is was the idea to install a gaga ball pit in the schoolyard.
“He had been doing some renovation at his home and was talking with Windsor Plywood about the idea, and they said they’d be happy to donate for it,” Vézina says, in a heavy French accent. He’s the directeur of a French school, after all. “And then McGrath Contracting said they would make the metal brackets for it – online they are very expensive to buy but they said they would do that for you for the school.”
From there they just needed a bit of paint, a few bolts and a place to put it. Rob Fuccenecco at The Mortgage Centre volunteered to fund the paint and bolts, and they were ready to build.
So just what is gaga ball, you ask?
Gaga ball is an Israeli form of dodgeball that’s played in an octagonal pit a few feet high. There are several variations of the rules, but, in general, the idea is to start with everyone touching the wall, the ball is set in the centre of the pit, and the game commences. The ball is slapped with an open hand, aimed at another player’s legs. If a player is touched by the ball at the knee or below, that player is out. The last player standing is the winner, the game ends and everyone comes back over the sides to start again.
Players can also be eliminated by being the last one to touch the ball if the ball leaves the pit, the last player to touch it is “out.”
Another variation of the game – which the students of Mer-et-Montagne have been playing at recess, Vézina says, is for a certain number of students to be in the pit to start the game, with a lineup of children waiting to enter, which they do, one at a time, when children are eliminated. This way, the game never ends and is just for the enjoyment of playing it, rather than establishing a winner.
Gaga ball, Vézina says, is an excellent game for school kids for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s another outside activity that takes them out from within the confines of the school to get some exercise.
Second, it’s something everyone can play at the same time, no matter their age.
“They can play kindergartener together with the Grade 8,” Vézina says. “Taller you are, the more chance you have of being eliminated, you see? Because if you’re tall, you have to bend over to protect, but when you’re short, you can protect yourself easier.”
Vézina says they haven’t decided whether they will put it away for storage in the summer months or just leave it up for everyone to enjoy year-round.
“We would just need to find somewhere to put the wood and brackets,” Vézina says, “but we could do that. I’m not sure, yet. Probably we will just leave it up.”