During one of our annual shipyards in Durban, South Africa, many of our crew were at housed at an empty college campus at Applesbosch, in the hills of Kwa Zulu Natal. The Academy had a Scottish Physical Education (PE) teacher who saw the space and gym at the campus as a chance to do things that were normally quite limited aboard the ship.

Teaching the older students about making sound healthy choices and being kind to little children opened the door for his idea. Why not have the older students run a sports day for the preschool and elementary kids?

Having a big gym made the whole thing possible. He set up balance beams and graduated padded levels and began to work with elementary students on aspects of gymnastics that one cannot do well in the small spaces of a rocking ship. The kids loved it! He had them doing rolls and summersaults and developing floor routines. Then he got the older students involved as coaches and spotters for the simpler maneuvers of the little children. He had the upper school do more serious gymnastic moves, including flips, which they performed for the ship community after the elementary sports day was complete.

One of the challenges the PE teacher set up for the children was hurdles. All the kids were excited to see how high they could jump. Some older students quieted the participants waiting in line, keeping them focused, while others monitored the heights of those jumping over the nets. Of course, when the elementary students were done, some of the junior high students tried their best leaps!

Working with balance, aim and hand-eye accuracy, the PE coach had the smaller children throwing basketballs, doing sack runs, and kicking balls into targets, all organized and directed by the upper school students. The children moved from station to station in the gym, always thrilled to try their best at a new challenge. Parents and crew floated around from group to group, watching the various children perform different skills, and cheering them on. Several of the smallest children were decorated for the occasion with face paint!

The idea of a sports day is normal for most schools, but it is rarely run by teenagers from the upper school. I loved seeing the kindness and gentleness of our teens as they guided the little ones through the activities. Though we had done variations of sports presentations on the ship, this one was unique. How many kids can say that they participated in or helped run a sports day in the hills of South Africa?


Written by Kim Robinson (English Teacher)