We got up close and personal with the Namibian and Fijian players at their game at Rotorua International Stadium a few weeks ago. I was struck with the players ability to get up and face another tackle again and again. And... to run fast into another tackle just after having the magic water applied.
Hawaiki, 3 1/2, and Pipiana, nearly 2, play rugby. They have balls and some black tshirts and ALL BLACKS socks!! Hawaiki said, "I am going to be an ALL BLACK." I replied, "Oh yes and I will come and watch every game you play - it is such a lot of hard work to be an All Black and you have to do lots of practice." He nodded. I said, "Pipiana could be an All Black too". Hawaiki looked at me, the disdain and disbelief apparent on his face. "No," he said "she can be a ballerina." I gave the lecture on the women's rugby team, the Black Ferns, who have won four world cups. I know, I know, I have some work to do there! and on me too - I am not sure the lecture was the best teaching tool with a 3 1/2 year old.
Hawaiki and Pipiana play rugby with Nana. I chase them and tackle them, push and lean on them, and try very hard! to get the ball off them. They wrestle and roll, pick themselves up and run again. Pipiana sometimes falls to the ground and feigns a tackle just before I make contact and lies there "injured". I know, I know, I have some work to do there too! We play this until Nana is tired!
Last week I visited an early childhood centre and went on the 'Farm Trip' with them. We had a lovely time and lots of learning happened there for us all. They enjoyed the experience of the farm and the animals. Lambs and chickens to hold and feed are opportunities for lots of dipositional learning. We shared a birthday party with a three year old and her family. After lunch some balls appeared and it was all on. Well an expansive learning environment just appeared. The invitations and provocations were all there. Space, grass and balls.
We played rugby. Teachers and children -18months to five - were on the field. The teachers chased and tackled, and ran and refereed. I, a strange adult, tackled one little girl- yes I know a teaching intention risk that I thought I may have got very wrong as she lay on the ground and was unhappy. Another teacher came over and we supported her recovery - no magic water - just magic kindness and care - teaching about how to recover and be resilient.
And so... I have been thinking about the learning that happens with 'rugby' play. Or any play like it really. I take liberty with Margaret Carr's statement now and say 'It is not about the rugby, the running or the popular culture, it is about that activity of the child's own choice being the vehicle for the learning, and for the dispositional learning we value most'.
Learning I value such as;
- trying something new or practicing something familiar - being involved and courageousness - some children watched for quite sometime before they were ready to join in - but join in they did.
- being brave and persistent, picking yourself up even after a hard emotional or physical knock, asking for help or having another go and keeping going.
- helping a friend or care for the toddler who has joined the four year olds in the ruck, or giving the ball to the chaser who now wants to be the runner.
- being delighted and happy at the chase.
- being satisfied and reflective about the outcomes.
- being resilient. Playing the game another day or choosing another kind of game and learning something new.
- knowing that these are learning strategies that will work with other new learning.
This learning will take children far beyond knowledge and skills, it will take children in to a 'possible self' and a future we know nothing of.
A future that involves winning or losing or getting badly injured and maintaining your strength of character.
Go the All Blacks Go! and Go our passion and pleasure in joining in with children and following their learning leads.