Physical Education

Play-Based Athletics

I am a proponent of full-sided team games and teaching games for understanding in PhysEd and DPA. I feel very passionate about team sports because I think that young children enjoy them, at least until something happens that spoils the fun of team sport. This is another issue entirely. Herein I want to discuss an alternative to team games, but something that can be an equally positive PhysEd experience for our students: Adventure Play.

Adventure play involves cooperating with peers in a form of explorative play that encourages problem solving, communicating effectively, and getting to know your peers and yourself. In discussing Adventure Play, McPhee-Bower details the different positive aspects of this type of play-based learning through physical activity, highlighting the aspects of cooperation – in the absence of competition – and reflection.

Cooperation is an incredibly important life skill that children need to build in different areas of their experience. In Physical Education, cooperation often goes hand-in-hand with competition, as it does in team games and sports. In Adventure Play, competition is replaced with an increased desire to cooperate with and learn from your peers. And when different groups are working on similar tasks, the competitive aspect is replaced with a desire to see the problem at hand from diverse perspectives.

For example, during our first class at the Trent AC, we were scarcely acquainted with one another. As Blair led us through the Adventure games, several things happened. Firstly, we began to learn our peers’ names and what brought us to Trent. Secondly, working together to solve problems and complete tasks allowed each of us to play to our strengths and work together as a group. We established how we fit into this class-sized puzzle, where each individual was valued and appreciated for what they brought to the table. Lastly, when we looked around the classroom at what other students were doing we were incredibly supportive of their work and cheered one another’s accomplishments. There was no room for competition because we were discussing the different ways we had approached the problem; we formed a single team. There was also no place for mistakes to be remarked or flaws to be pointed out, because Adventure Play is not about right and wrong – it’s not even about trial and error. Adventure Play is trial, reflection, new idea, second trial, and on and on in a circle.

As this anecdote demonstrates, Adventure Play is not just for primary students. Teacher Candidates thoroughly enjoyed the play-based games, and everyone walked away having learned something. I think that the intermediate and senior applications of Adventure Play could be really positive for students, especially those at the vulnerable stage of Grade 9 PhysEd, where the two things most necessary are for each student to feel valued, and for peers to work together rather than compete.

Adventure Play also has a lot of applications to the world of team games and sports, as it promotes a strong comradery among teammates. And I also think that it fosters a level of respect for one’s opponents as well. A frequently overlooked aspect of sport is the necessity of respect for opponents that is forged out of a mutual respect and love for the game. Adventure Play is a fun, novel, easy way to start some of these discussions, and to serve as a refresher for more seasoned athletes.


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