Step inside a physical education class at APW Junior-Senior High School and you may see much more than your traditional gym class. For several years, the school has been carrying out an international games unit to teach students about athletics around the world.
“It’s called gaga ball,” explains Trisha Kling as she references a game that has a class of students gathered in and around a wooden-framed pit.
Gaga – literally meaning “touch-touch” in Hebrew – originated in Israel and quickly spread internationally. The goal is to become the last person standing as players are eliminated by being struck with the ball on our below the knee.
The game is part of an international games unit that Kling, an APW physical education teacher, has conducted for the last five years. Originally inspired by a longstanding tradition of playing cricket within the school, Kling wanted to expand into other exciting games from outside the US.
Now, cricket and gaga are joined by brannboll, a Scandinavian batt and ball game and – new to this year – Danish Longball. Typically the unit lasts for three weeks, with two days for each game. Though usually implemented for the seventh and eighth grade students, the unit has begun new favored traditions within the school.
“The high schoolers always want to play gaga ball because it’s such a hit,” said Kling. “Whenever it comes time for us to play, the kids get so excited.”
Kling takes great pride in continuing and expanding the unit each year. “I love introducing games from other countries, because a lot of the time it’s completely new for the students,” she said. “The games all have their unique rules compared to our commonly played sports. It’s fun for them – and myself! – to try something new.”