Unity Games Success by Kirsten Lee

29 04 2016

Dear Champions Alumni, Family, Friends, and Followers of the Champions Program,

Waking up today we were filled with mixed emotions regarding our first Unity Games Day. We were both excited and anxious to see what a Unity Games Day looked like after preparing for them for the last 6 months. The first thing we do as a team when we get to the island is spend the entire morning and afternoon running through and teaching each other the games that were prepared by our lovely Unity Games Coordinator, Jenelle MacDonald. These games come to life every Friday at two different schools, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Being a second year Champion, I learned quickly that these days are exhausting when you have to teach the entire school 7 different games based on 7 different life skills within 2 hours. As a team, we rotate a group of students roughly every 15 minutes and work together to keep our energy up.

Today was a little bit different from previous years because we spent our morning with The Victory Center and the Antigua School for the Deaf. These schools work with students who deal with wide range of exceptionalities and the schools specifically moved their sports day to April knowing that our Canadian teachers were coming. This was an incredible experience as we worked one-on-one with these students who each had their own unique personality. In the beginning there was a little a bit of struggle with communication, however, each of the Champions quickly picked up some new sign language. Today I learned that using your body to communicate is such a powerful lesson and life skill in itself. One new sign that I learned today is ‘Excel’, which was on the shirt of the students from the Antigua School for the Deaf. We began the day with stretches to warm up our bodies, which ended up turning into a dance party but I am not complaining. Those students loved to dance and they sure knew how to bust a move. Throughout the day I saw Gangnam Style, whipping and nae nae’ing, and a whole lot of booty poppin. After our warm up we took the students through a variety of stations which their teachers had created for them. These included sprints, long jumps, throwing, kicking, and even the limbo. It is one of the most rewarding opportunities working with these students and realizing how much they are capable of. Looking around the field I saw each Champion connecting and fully engaged with another student. I spent the majority of my time with a little boy named Jashaun. He couldn’t verbally communicate, but his face completely lit up when you gave him a high five or when he crossed a finish line. Even though he had limited motor skills, he loved kicking around a football (or soccer ball for all you Canadians) and I was amazed by what he was able to do. For someone who has difficulty walking, he was able to kick the football directly to me. Reflecting on this morning, I get a little bit emotional knowing that we only met these students today, yet we made such a deep connection and they already have a place in our hearts.

After a quick lunch and a freeze pop, we hopped in our white vehicles and made our way over to Jennings Primary School. I have never seen so much excitement from the students as we pulled up to their school. Getting outside of the vehicle you are swarmed with children all wanting to give you a high five and play hand games with you. Soon enough we were organizing students into grades and Unity Games was in full swing. One component of Unity Games is passing leadership onto the Grade 6 students at each school. Each Champion had the opportunity to working with 1 or 2 students in Grade 6 who helped us run our station. Today I working with the Kindergarten/Grade 1 students and we working on Teamwork with a game called Shark Attack. It was adorable seeing them all run around with their hands on their heads like shark fins. At first I used my Grade 6 students to help me demonstrate the game and call out the cues for the game. Probably within the 5th rotation I started to explain the game to the new group, but to my surprise one of my Grade 6 helpers, Karina, completely took over and explained the game for me. I took a step back and just watched her with a gigantic smile on my face. After listen to me explain the game so many times, she had it memorized and I think she might have even explained it better than I did. Jennings Primary School has been in our program since the beginning, so these Grade 6 students experienced Unity Games from Kindergarten and now they are the ones that are teaching along side us. Today Karina was the perfect example of the importance of incorporating the older students. Overall, it is safe to say that our first Unity Games Day was a success and learning experience for both the students and us as Champions.
Kirsten Lee



5 responses

29 04 2016
Jenepher Sheppard

Congratulations Champions on the successful completion of your first Unity Games and to your leader Jenelle MacDonald for her expert organization. I especially liked your description of the excitement the students brought to the day. It is an event they will remember for years to come. Perhaps some of the students will not be able to verbalize their memories but rest assured they will hold them in their hearts. They are thrilled to participate and belong. I know Dr. Sheppard (Jo, to me) is always extraordinarily proud of the way the Grade Sixes embrace their leadership roles on this day because, of course, she remembers every one of them from the time they were little ” ankle biters” in Kindergarten. She is proud of them AND of the Canadian Champions of UFV. Go Champions.
Jenepher Sheppard

29 04 2016
Boni Datema

So much joy in these pictures! What a great experience for everyone.

30 04 2016

The pictures tell it all. Great experiences for everyone involved. Thanks. Nana

30 04 2016

Awesome to hear you are all having new experiences, even though the program has the same format each year. Thanks for sharing so much with all of us back home. It almost feels like we are there with you! Love how much movement is involved in you teaching!

4 05 2016

A lot of time and effort goes in to developing the exercises for Unity games and a tremendous amount of team work goes in to making the a success. This is another example of the power of working together and being inclusive with the children. It is awesome to read that the deaf and hard of hearing children are involved in Unity games and that Champions were able to learn as much from the children and the children do from the Champions. These experiences will be part of the suitcase of experiences the children will take with them throughout their lives, especially as they have to navigate a world of limited or no sounds in it. Such an important time for them.

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