Laughter fills the room. Students are enthusiastically engaging in the game that teachers have asked them to play as soon as they enter. They push, pull and fall off balance then excitedly reset themselves for another round.
Year 5 students are playing the game ‘Sticky Fingers’ in which they place their palms against an opponent and attempt to put them off balance. What was the best strategy? Stand firm and push hard, hoping to make your opponent go backwards? Or maybe allow your partner to push hard and pull your own hands back, making them fall forwards? This question becomes a hotly contested topic of conversation as teachers reflect on the game with carefully crafted questions with different students equally as convinced that their strategy is best.
These are the kinds of activities and games that introduce students to the Rock and Water program, being used in the upper years of our Junior School. Originally created by Dutch educator, Freerk Ykema, Rock and Water develops greater social and emotional skills and knowledge by triangulating body awareness, emotional awareness and self-awareness. All of the games and activities taught and learned in Rock and Water specifically target one or more of these goals.
The terms ‘rock’ and ‘water’ are symbolic of the choices that we have in many social situations. ‘Rock’ is an unflinching, strong, rigid way of thinking and being. ‘Water’ is more flexible, malleable and able to adapt to its environment. As the program progresses and a student’s awareness of Rock and Water activities deepens they are introduced to the terms ‘rock’ and ‘water’ and encouraged to apply the concepts to their life. Whilst students are taught that adopting ‘water’ is generally preferable they also engage in enough activities to show that it is necessary at times to be ‘rock’ as well.
There is a wide variety of activities that students participate in during the Rock and Water program. Some activities, such as ‘Sticky Fingers’ are based specifically on body awareness, others are based on whether choosing a ‘rock’ or ‘water’ approach is best whilst other activities show students how to respond to bullying situations confidently and calmly. The ultimate goal is that students develop a better awareness of themselves and stronger social and emotional skills.
Our Year 5 students are playing ‘Sticky Fingers’ again. However, teachers have now taught them how to be grounded (planting one’s feet into the ground), centred (tensing one’s core) and focused (clearing one’s mind of all distractions). The atmosphere in the room is different this time. There is laughter again but students are more determined and more thoughtful about how they are approaching the game.
As teachers ask students to reflect about how ‘Sticky Fingers’ was different once they were grounded, centred and focused, almost every student’s hand is raised to offer feedback. Students offer words like ‘strong’, ‘immovable’ and ‘powerful’. Another student points out that each round of ‘Sticky Fingers’ lasted much longer once they were aware of their bodies and used what they had been taught.
The lesson has been a resounding success. The Year 5 students move back to their classrooms, excited for what their next Rock and Water experience will bring.
Steve Clacher – Assistant Head of Junior School – Years 4-6