Teaching World Games

In the final week of this school year I tried something new with my #PhysEd class that was extremely successful and I owe it all to the virtues of being a ‘Connected Educator’ and my global PLN. The best part of introducing the Maori game of ‘Tapuwae’ to my students is that I can trace the evolution of my lesson back to 2013 and I even have the twitter receipts to prove it.

February 19th 2013: The Seed is Sown

In 2013 (although possibly earlier) I saw Adam Metcalf present at the IAHPERD conference on the topic of ‘World Games’. This was a chance to see some of the games of which I was familiar from my time teaching PE back in England, including netball and cricket. The seed was sown. As a PE teacher from London, England, I had knowledge of games and pastimes that my American students had likely never experienced. I had played and coached cricket, I had coached a netball team in my first year of teaching, I had rugby coaching experience and the last school at which I taught in England even had a croquet team.

March 12th 2015: The Greatest World Games Resource. Ever.

In 2015 Sarah Gietschier-Hartman, who rightfully maintains that ‘ALL games are world games”, released to the world her AMAZING crowd-sourced document listing details of games popular across the globe. Now my head was spinning. Every time I would hear of a sport I would check, and yes, it was listed on the document, even Kabaddi the Indian ‘tag’ game that was briefly televised back in England when I was younger. I looked to Adam, Sarah, and later Seth Martin as teachers who were willing to teach the skills that we typically teach, but through the medium of games from afar. I was determined to educate myself and research games from other countries.

December 7th 2015: I Announce My Interest in ‘Tapu Ae’

Inspired by Adam, Sarah and Seth  I researched a number of games before discovering Tapuwae/Tapu Ae/Tapuae and started to add educators from New Zealand to my PLN. Carl Condliffe shared this AWESOME resource on Ngā Taonga Tākaro (traditional Maori games)…and we have kept in touch ever since, even chatting about education on his podcast. Fraser Allen from Canada jumped on to the same twitter thread and recommended another great resource.

A Londoner, teaching in Chicago, inspired by a teacher in Missouri was being helped by teachers based in Wellington and Vancouver! I was gaining in confidence in my understanding of Tapuwae.

March 4th 2016: My First Ever Tapuwae Lesson

I can see from my Twitter history that in preparation for this momentous occasion I was aided by more educators in my PLN. Mihinga Komene was a great help, sharing language and history of the game, including additional resources. It was Mihinga that also introduced me to the concept of ‘tatū’. You might refer to it as ‘house rules’, but specifically it is the term to describe when when different schools/areas have variations of the same game. Groups can come together to clarify and negotiate rules before play.

I remember nervously setting up the gym, hoping that I had done everything ‘properly’. I knew that the game has many variations, and that terminology and rules can vary from region to region, but I didn’t want to do the game a disservice.

It was a hit! I introduced the students to some of the language – “Hit the tupu using the kī”, ‘Don’t step in the Te Motu!”. It felt strange using language that was unsure of, but I know that this is more authentic than asking the offense to “throw a ball at the targets”. If I was to teach an historic Maori game, it was only right that I introduced my students to Te Reo.

April 7th 2016: The Memorable Presentation

I finally met both Sarah and Seth at my first SHAPE America conference in Minneapolis. In their ‘Teaching World Games for Understanding” session they introduced me to Ringo and Branböll, but it was the Maori game of Ki-O-Rahi that caught my eye. In addition to playing and consuming Sarah and Seth’s resources I was determined to continue my interest in Ngā Taonga Tākaro. I spent 7 weeks in New Zealand in 2005 and have friends teaching there, so it made sense that this game resonated most with me. Susan Flynn, who I also met in Minneapolis was involved in a study abroad in New Zealand and she too shared her resources with me.

In my 2016 CAHPERD keynote I shared my reasoning for promoting world games when I stated:

Why is it that my PE curriculum is dominated by North American and European team games and activities? What is it that I am hoping to teach my students when I ask them to participate in PE, and can I achieve those same outcomes, or more, through a new sport or activity from another part of the world? If I want to look at passing, receiving, finding an open space to receive a pass or shutting down a player when I’m a defender in flag football…..I can do exactly the same things in Ki-o-Rahi – a great game from New Zealand that I saw Seth Martin and Sarah Gietschier-Hartman teach – plus weave in other educational elements as well.

The Journey Continued

Placing myself out of my comfort zone and asking educators from across the globe allowed me to grow as a teacher. Although it was initially uncomfortable I was emboldened to try more new activities as I sought to expand my teaching repertoire.

My Tapawae experiment was repeated with Quidditch and Sepak Takraw.

June 5th 2019: Tapuwae Revisited

The last full teaching week of this school year was tough for me. I teach juniors and seniors and with terrible weather in the MidWest, plus the loss of half of my class due to graduation, we were all feeling uninspired. Summer was a week away, with final exams standing between us and 2 months of freedom. Struggling to motivate my 16/17 year olds I pulled Tapuwae out of my teaching bag to see if they would be interested. And were they ever?!

And it didn’t stop there. I created and shared a flyer with more Te Reo, which prompted more discussion with my New Zealand counterparts.

The conversation bounced from refining some of the words mentioned, to wouldn’t it be great if I had access to Harko Brown‘s book “Nga Taonga Takaro:The Matrix”? THEN Anne McKay from Auckland reached out to Harko who emailed me directly, sharing the haunting history of the game that I had teaching. I’m sharing his email, which I read to my students, because it shows the power in exposing our students to histories from other nations.

Tapuwae was revived by returned soldiers of the Maori Battalion, immediately after WW2.
It came about because Maori were promised by MP Apirana Ngata, that if they fought in the European theatre of war, and died in sufficient numbers, that they would become ‘first class citizens’.
However on returning to NZ after 5 merciless years of fighting, with atrocious death rates amongst the 28 Maori Battalion (MB), the soldiers returned to huge traditional land losses and much of their tribal lands were even used and balloted out as farmland for non-Maori soldiers.
Maori realised that despite Apirana’s promises, and their huge death rates amongst the 28MB, they were still very much 2nd class citizens in their own country.
Many soldiers turned to the deep wells of their tupuna & sought to uplift their spiritual wairua through the promotion of ‘nga taonga takaro’ hence their push to revive several of the traditional games of old, such as rahi, ti-uru, tapuwae, kuku, matamatarongo & others.
Tapuwae is a branch of games such as ki-o-rahi & ti-uru.
Their treatment post-WW2 was the catalyst for our games revivals. Remembering also that the traditional well-springs of Maori game play & their important protocols & peace rituals were the tohunga (also hohou-rongo) who Maori MPs successfully outlawed with the Tohunga Suppression Act (1908).
Other revivals pushed by MB & their whanau included kapa haka & te REO Maori.
Hoping this brief korero sheds some light on our games revivals such as tapuwae.

I am thankful to my PLN of awesome educators and carry their influence into every classroom and gym space on a daily basis. This final tweet sums up my six year journey towards teaching tapuwae with confidence.

Please check out other slowchathealth collaborations between myself and educators from New Zealand:

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