Star Wars Club- Mindfulness and DPA

For a class assignment, we were told:

As a group, decide upon and select one school where you feel a well-being intervention would be welcomed… Over the next 5 weeks, design, implement and assess a plan for promoting  well-being. You may join an existing well-being initiative and tailor your group’s plan accordingly or work with your peers/colleagues to create a new initiative.

I’ll admit to being nervous when that assignment was first introduced. It appeared to be a fairly substantial undertaking, and even if it looked good in our portfolios, would it be possible to get such a thing off the ground? As the butterflies worked their way through my stomach, I tried to think of a good starting point. I decided it would be best to tackle it as I would one of my Korean seasonal camps: start with a theme, and create activities that would tie into it.

In Korea, there are two vacation breaks, and I would design a camp for students to join and work on their English. The camps would run for about a week during the summer and winter breaks. Students from any grade could join, and that often meant a massive wave of applicants.

The themes I managed to create camps out of were: Winter Countries, Superheroes, the Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, the Avengers, and Nintendo. The students didn’t necessarily know the themes inside-out when they began the camp, but they were well-versed in the appropriate geeky parlance by the end.

For a well-being initiative in an Ottawa school, I thought Star Wars would be a good fit. The Jedi ethos follows pretty close to mental and physical health initiatives. We could easily convince students to participate in high intensity exercises if they thought it could tie into Jedi training. Having them be pay heed to their emotional awareness and how to center themselves would also promote mental health.

My group would create a bunch of different activities, and go to a school during second recess. We would test out our activities with the students, and create a booklet. The booklet would include all the necessary steps for a teacher to start their own Star Wars Club. Even if the teacher didn’t want anything to do with Star Wars, they could easily adapt the exercises to promote physical activity within their own classes. Finding engaging activities for students to get that Daily Physical Activity (DPA) is a task all by itself, so if we could cut down on the hassle that’d nicely do.

There were still unanswered questions while we were in the planning stages. Would enough students be interested in Star Wars to sign up? Would students find the activities engaging enough to want to return the following week? Was the Club inclusive? We hoped our natural enthusiasm for having a Star Wars Club would be enough to win the students over.

Our doubts, on whether students would be interested in signing up, were laid to rest on the first outing. It was a snow day, and my associate teacher emailed me saying we might want to postpone due to the number of students. However, we had made up our minds and would go in to report for duty. We were guaranteed seven students from her class, so I was expecting a dozen students at the most. We had opened it up to the junior grades to keep things simple (grades 4-6). Despite it being a snow day, over 34 students showed up in the gym, some of them wearing Star Wars shirts, and one dressed up in Jedi knight cosplay!

On a good day, I figured we would get 20 students, and that would be a success. We certainly weren’t expecting the number we got, and the game we created (Death Star Trench Run- a combination of dodgeball and basketball) wasn’t designed to handle that many participants. We improvised on the fly and reworked the rules. The students didn’t seem to mind the well-orchestrated chaos, and vowed to return the next week.

We had seven days to plan out a new set of activities. We floated out the idea of using activity stations this time around. That way students would be in more manageable groups, and they could cycle through different exercises. We would have a pattern game, where the students would be Ewoks following the movement pattern set out by their chief. One student wouldn’t know who the chief was, and would need to guess. We would also have a lightsaber reflex game, where the students would have to dodge an instructor’s imaginary blade in the proper direction. We would also have an exercise using scooters, where the students would have a relay race to bring down some AT-ATs. The day would end with a cool-down and mediation moment.

Did the students have fun in the week prior? Would we see a decline in numbers? If so, we would be able to have the students in a single group, and cycle them through the stations. We believed we had a solid strategy going in.

Students started popping by much too early, even before they had a chance to eat their lunch, so we told them to do that first. A line began to form outside the gym. When they were finally admitted into the gym, and sequestered into their squads, we had at least 46 students. Our little recess club had grown. This was now much bigger than I had hoped for, but our strategy of different squads and activity stations held up.

The students were really enthusiastic and enjoyed themselves. They were buzzing about the activities and vowing to return next week. They complained it was for too short a time, because the period went by so quickly. My fellow teacher candidates were just as jazzed by the success.

Going in to volunteer could have been a massive time sink, due to all the planning involved. There was no guarantee it would work, or if we would get the greenlight to have a school host us. The success it has enjoyed thus far caught us off-guard and we’re excited to see what else we can bring to the students. The Force is very much with us.