A Case Study

Beach Haven Primary
Beach Haven Primary/Improves student empowerment by introducing a skateboard leaders programme.

THE PROBLEM: THE DECLINE OF CHILDREN'S FREEDOM AND THE RISE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS

Beach Haven Primary School - like the majority of traditional education institutions - regularly faces challenges engaging students in academic "work". This is particularly true for young boys who have great difficulty sitting still in class for long periods of time.

Traditional educational learning environments tend to involve a passive approach to learning, which can have a detrimental effect on young children who often need to move to learn. The reported incidence of obesity, depression, stress, ADHD and anxiety among young people have increased significantly over the past few decades due to the reduced opportunities for children to be physically active. In light of this, many educators are now calling for a change of approach to the delivery of academic learning, including the re-introduction of more play based activities to stimulate engagement in class interaction.

THE SOLUTION: INTRODUCTION OF PLAY BASED LEARNING THROUGH SKATEBOARDING

Beach Haven Primary have recognised the value of play in helping to engage children in school life, improve personal and social development and increase engagement in active recreation.  For some years now the school has been operating a "play" based approach to learning for its year 1 - 3 students. Anoushka explained why the school introduced this approach in their junior school:

“So, for us, it’s remembering that they (students) are children and we have a very high boy population and many boys aren’t ready for school at 5 years old. So, we had to look at what we needed to do for them, and play based learning fitted best.  

We visit Kindergartens every term and we see what they are doing. Those kids are coming from an environment where they are playing, they are talking, they are taking risks and then they come into school and suddenly all that’s taken away (from them) and you (students) are expected to sit for 6 hours a day as a 5-year-old, it doesn’t work. So, we looked at play based learning as a way to engage these children, to help them want to be here (at school), so they are not switched off from school. To meet the needs of the boys in particular because it’s such a high population down there (junior school). And you see so many benefits (from play). You know, the creativity that comes out of it, the communication that

comes out of it.  And it’s not teacher led, you know we supply the resources and off they go.  We don’t say you must do it this way”.

In 2013, Sports Coordinator – Anoushka Dallow - accepted an invitation from OnBoard Skate to have Beach Haven Primary School's students participate in a Harbour Sport, kiwisport funded skateboarding project. The project ran for 4 x consecutive weeks and involved 151 boys and girls. When asked why she accepted our offer, Anoushka stated:

"One of the biggest things I look for (when choosing sport and recreation activities for students) is I like to look for something different", because our kids are very sporty and they play anything and everything". "When I did a bit of research and found you, I was like, this sounds amazing. Like having skateboards, kids learning to do it properly. They love wheels and speed, so to me it was an opportunity for them to take (safe) risks and that's huge".

"That's what sort of got me hooked at first. Then of course we started our first programme and from there it was, no we need to have this stuff (equipment) in our school".

At the conclusion of the kiwisport programme, OnBoard Skate donated 14 x second hand skateboards to the school, for use by the students. Since then the school has purchased (from OnBoard Skate) second hand helmets and safety pads, 20 x new micro scooters, and just recently 10 x portable skateboard ramps and 1 x grind rail. In addition to the school's purchase of equipment, OnBoard Skate has been regularly training selected students as skateboard leaders. Their primary responsibility has been to coordinate and run the school's weekly lunchtime wheels sessions for other students. Annoushka describes how the sessions are typically run:

"In the summer - so term 1 and 4 - and even sometimes in term 2, we have a wheel’s day at least once a week. We base it on new groups, just so we can maintain control (of student’s numbers)".

Anoushka and her staff also use the skateboards and scooters as an alternate learning tool outside of the regular lunchtime sessions.

"I run the classroom relief programme, so my programme is based on outdoor activity (play based learning). If we're not in the bush then we are on wheels. I've got them (students) out nearly every day". 

"Our junior school runs a discovery programme one afternoon a week where it is about the teacher's passion. My passion is wheels, so every junior class comes to me each week and gets wheels (sessions)".

Skateboarding and scooters have now become a regular feature of Anoushka’s play based teaching philosophy and have played a key role in helping new students assimilate into life at school, and most importantly gain confidence and self-esteem. Anoushka described how skateboarding has impacted on one young boy: 

“Like one young boy springs to mind. He is year 3 now. He was a kid that even coming into the classroom was a big deal. I had him for 6 months and now, seeing him as a year 3 you wouldn’t know it was the same boy”. In the beginning, he was so anxious about failing, getting anything wrong, sitting wrong or giving the wrong answer” (to a teacher’s question). “He was one of those wrapped up kids that has not experienced taking risks for themselves. He has some world experiences, but not risk-taking experiences”.

The use of safety equipment (helmets, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards) when skateboarding, has played a key role in increasing student’s confidence to take on new and unfamiliar challenges. According to Anoushka:

"Everything is scary, and with skateboarding, we all fall down, but we are safe. We’ve got all this gear on. I always say to them (students) the only thing you are going to hurt is your bottom if you fall that way. Everything else is going to be fine”. “And I see them now, and like - because we have had it (skateboarding) in the school for a few years now - the risk taking that they are doing. Like they are going stupid speeds around the place”.

This is also reflected in the student’s resilience and willingness to bounce back from adversity.

“They (students) do fall (off of the skateboards). A couple of years ago I would have seen (students) crying and needing ice packs. Now they just look at me (after a fall) and they’re up and off they go again. Some of the tumbles are quite big you know and they are wanting to take bigger risks. Like there’s a hill down to the bottom playground. They want to attack all that (the hill) on the skateboard. But in the past, they wouldn’t have even looked at that hill”

The devolution of responsibility – for learning – from adults to the children (through skateboarding) - has greatly increased their sense of personal empowerment. As a result, children are more confident and resilient. Anoushka pointed out why this was an important for the students;

“Yes, and that’s one of our (personal development) steps. We’ve got three bold steps and one of them is empowering children so that they take ownership of their learning, they take risks and become critical and a little bit cool, and so we find that the junior school going through the play based learning is the way to get it into them”.

According to Anoushka, being more empowered has had a positive flow on effect to children’s engagement in academic learning.

“They (students) still learn the reading, writing, math’s, but in their context, not our context”. “So now there’s a huge shift from - what do you want to write about? -, to - what did you just go and do, what experience did you have - now let’s write about it.  So, we are seeing more engagement in writing because they are excited because they just went outside and did something.  It’s so exciting you know for our kids, they don’t have many experiences outside school. So, having to write about their weekend where they probably did nothing is not going to get good writing, so giving them experiences whether they are just going outside and playing with some bubbles and writing about it. We are seeing huge improvements in writing and then we try and link it with the reading as well.  The reading material is not - here’s a book (on a topic that the teacher thinks is important) about a teddy bear– (instead it’s) here’s a book (whatever topic the child is interested in or can relate to) about wheels, or here’s a book about bubbles”. 

Students are also empowered through the school’s adoption of OnBoard Skate’s Skateboard Ambassador programme. This programme provides children of all abilities (skateboarders and non-skateboarders alike) with an opportunity to develop leadership skills, confidence, self-esteem and selflessness by helping others learn to skateboard safely. Anoushka explains the benefits that have occurred as a result of the introduction of a skateboard leaders programme for students;

“We’ve got the trained coaches (Skateboard Ambassadors) who are keen as kids and you know they weren’t skateboarder kids, you know, but suddenly they all want skateboards. I mean one of our student’s mothers works in our office. Her son who only has one arm, he doesn’t really pick up any sport, (but) he loves being a skateboard Coach and (he) said “oh Mum I am going to teach you how to skateboard”. ‘That kind of stuff you go “oh that’s really cool” and that’s just from him putting his hand up saying yeah, I’ll do this. And it’s something he can do, he’s not disadvantaged by having one arm, whereas scootering he can’t do. Skateboarding he can do and he’s now teaching others”.

This programme has had a major impact on the children’s personal and social development.

“I think of those skateboard coaches and they weren’t our most confident leaders, they had leadership qualities, but they were the quiet leaders and (now) to see them step out and quite happily (lead the school’s lunchtime wheels sessions) and be so organised.  And they are telling kids how it works (how to use the equipment safely and respecting other people involved in the session). That’s so cool to say. You know they have been put in a situation - that they’re not sporty kids - but they are absolutely leading this programme”.

“I saw a huge confidence (boost) in them at the end of last year and then moving into this year they are really confident kids, who lacked confidence before”.

Anoushka plans to continue to expand the programme to provide opportunities for more children to train as skateboard ambassadors. OnBoard Skate will be working with her in the coming months to provide the necessary training and development of the students.

“The next group (of students) want to know (when they can be trained as skateboard ambassadors).  They are saying - I want to be involved in that.  “In the past, year 6 (students) is where the leadership opportunities have been for students. But the current leaders were year 4’s last year, so it wasn’t like oh well you have to be year 6. Everything waits till year 6, you’ve got little leaders happening from younger and this was an opportunity for them to run something".

The leadership skills and confidence the students have gained from their role as Skateboard Ambassadors has now carried over to a leadership role in the classroom.

“I see them now (students), like in their classroom as year 5’s, they lead lessons. They have been teaching Math lessons. The teacher just sits back and watches. Whereas before they (students) were lacking confidence, (saying to themselves) I am not going to do that. But (because) they were given an opportunity to lead something and (now their attitude is) like I can do this. So now they have taken it into their classroom and they are planning lessons and running lessons (for other students), which is quite fun to watch. And they are only year 5’s. We’ve got them for another year and a half”.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this case study was to demonstrate how an alternative (skateboarding) approach to actively engaging children in physical activity and fundamental skill development - using a play based philosophy – can have wide ranging positive benefits for children’s personal and social development.

We have demonstrated throughout this case study the positive benefits skateboarding has had on the physical and mental wellbeing of the school’s students. We have seen evidence of children being more engaged – not just in active recreation – but in academic activity as well. Children have consistently demonstrated more enthusiasm for reading, writing and math, with some students even taking responsibility for preparing and delivering lessons to their peers.

We heard evidence of the improvements in student’s confidence, self-esteem and resilience and how they have transferred this attitude to the classroom. Whenever students come across new and unfamiliar challenges in their classroom lessons they are able to refer back to how they dealt with this situation when they were skateboarding and use this is as a prompt to help them overcome the problems.

At OnBoard Skate, we advocate strongly for the introduction (or re-introduction) of play based learning through activities such as skateboarding. We have proved – in the past 5 years through the delivery of 1,000’s of our skateboard and scooter programmes to over 30,000 children and youth in 121 schools and at 100’s of community facilities, that empowering children and youth to take responsibility for their own physical skill learning and personal and social development can have a significant impact on their willingness to actively engage in physical and academic learning. Given the added responsibility for their own lives young people are more likely to be motivated to want to make a positive contribution to society.