At my school – St George’s Rd Primary, we recently ran the first of what will become a regular event held at least once a semester for both the students of the school and the broader school community. Over some months we were lucky enough to get the support of many fantastic companies like Rio Grande Games, Hasbro, Caterpillar Games, Mindgames Albury, Military Simulations, and many more.
Board games are unique in that that they provide a fun and mentally stimulating exercise at the same time as remaining a truly social activity. Our objective in running this Game Day was to begin a regular community based Game Day. This Game Day, to be held once a semester, is a celebration of our school and school community, a day where children and parents can interact meaningfully and enjoy the stimulating games together. The aim is to encourage a spirit of exploration, engagement, involvement and interactivity between children and between children and parents.
Our innaugral Game Day was a huge success. Children from the school and the attached language center, including many from refugee, ESL and low socio-economic backgrounds who do not have the opportunity to enjoy such fun activities, spent a full day engaged meaningfully and having fun. The chance to interact through mentally stimulating games was much appreciated. In our community hall, over the course of the day, some 500 people came and played board games.
The most impressive role was that of the Games Ambassadors, these were volunteer children who spent weeks training to learn all the games as well as the processes involved with teaching the games. On the day the Games Ambassadors demonstrated their capacity to lead, inspire, resolve differences and mentor to their peers and adults. In the reflections of many of the students after that Game Day it was inspiring to read the thought “I didn’t realise that young kids could teacher old kids and adults”. In many cases the Games Ambassadors were grade 3 and 4 children (ages 9-10), these children taught the students and adults the rules of the game, as well as resolved rules complications and social difficulties. The Games Ambassadors were recognised with certificates, but the real reward was watching them demonstrate leadership, initiative and verve in the pursuit of their role. Games Ambassadors selected games and made judgements on suitable games for adults and kids, they taught games and resolved problems, without them the day would not have succeeded.
Such an activity on such a scale reinforces the central role that any school plays in the community. Board games cross language boundaries, cultural boundaries and age boundaries. Children challenged adults, cultural groups that woudn’t normally interact laughed together and the leadership of the students in role modelling sportsmanship and teaching the games was fantastic.
This was a fantastic day, I am proud of my role in organising it, but more so of the role the school played in supporting me, and the role played by the Games Ambassadors in running the event on the day. The way the children carried themselves on the day, the laughter, the fun, the sparkling eyes on the day proved, to me at least, the board games are far from obsolete, and that they still have a vital role to play in a community building and social fun.