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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Learning in Nature: Capture the Flag

One of my favorite childhood games was Capture the Flag. Many spring, summer, and fall nights my siblings, neighbors, and I played vigorous games of Capture the Flag all around my small, cape style, childhood home. The game was always marked by lots of running, strategy, arguing, and defeat or triumph.

I first learned the game at Girl Scout camp when we played in a giant wooded field. Now as a teacher, I play the game in a section of the playground that includes a grassy/wood chip area and a woodsy patch. It's always challenging to play the first round since students come to the game with many differing sets of rules. I share a few basic rules to start out with such as:
  • No pushing, shoving.
  • No throwing the flag.
  • No throwing rocks or sticks.
  • No chains to free others from jail.
  • Two-hand touch to capture, one-hand touch to free.
  • Wear clothes to prevent scratches and ticks.
But then there are always the rule questions such as can you move the flag during the game, do people have to be able to see the jail, does the flag have to be placed in the ground, and where exactly are the boundaries.

Yesterday as we played, one teacher marked the playground boundary and I marked the wood boundary. We refereed the game and settled disputes. It was a good game because it lasted for more than 30 minutes without a win.

It's a great game for learning how to work together to strategize and collaborate.

At one point three boys complained by my side about fairness, the other team, and their lack of success. I responded that rather than complain they needed to work together to figure out a strategy to win. It took a little coaxing, but soon they started working together.

At the end of the game, many spoke of rules broken and fairness. I admitted that it's always difficult to play the first time as so many children bring different understandings of the game. I said we'd make a committee to firm up the rules and play again before the school year's out. 

I also want to get some plastic tape to mark the boundary trees and type up the rules to share with the students. 

In all, it was great to see so many children have fun running, playing, and strategizing at the end of a busy week of learning. Now I'm looking forward to our committee meeting and the next round of this popular game.

After the game, one boy told the story of how his family played this game with friends in the early evening using glow sticks. That sounded like another good way to play the game.