For the last 15 years, faculty and staff at Calvin Christian School (CCS) in Hamilton have taken a distinct and creative approach to the traditional track and field day—so that both junior and senior students in their community benefit from the event. What sets the school’s track and field day apart from many other school track events is its focus on multi-grade team work.
Spirit days leading up to track and field day help set the tone. During these occasions the entire school population of CCS is divided into mixed age teams. Together, members pick a name, create a cheer, pair off (younger students are matched with older students) and practice field events as a group. Grade eight students provide leadership for the teams and grade seven students serve as co-captains. Faculty, staff and volunteers manage the events.
At a CCS track and field day traditional activities like triple trip jump and ball throw are balanced by group events like sack races and relays. In both contexts students aim to earn points for the teams of which they are part.
“Students who don’t enjoy the individual events tend to look forward to these group events,” says Joanne Bosveld, a teacher at CCS who played a large role in organizing this year’s track and field day.
Individual events, on the other hand, give students who really like sports a chance to work hard at improving their athleticism. “The multi-grade system continues to focus on the outcome for the team, while still celebrating individual athletic gifts,” she says.
As a way to help students achieve personal bests, CCS has developed achievement placement standards based on age and gender for each track event. For example, the average six year old boy is expected to jump between 120 - 200 centimetres in running long jump, whereas an eleven year old boy is expected to jump between 210 - 310 centimetres in the same category. Students are aware of these standards and often keep them in mind as they set individual goals for themselves.
The day also provides students with a unique perspective on placing first, second and third in track and field events. A ten year old female student earns a first place ribbon in an event like the 800 meter dash by running faster than the other girls in her age group. However, in receiving a first place ribbon, she’s also earning points for the multi-age team of which she is part.
There are good social dynamics happening during this process.
“Older students have the opportunity to use their leadership skills, creative talents and to mentor younger students in different athletic skills areas,” says Bosveld.
Team leaders are often struck by the joy and energy that younger students exude on field day. Bosveld says she’s had several grade seven and eight students tell her that it, “reminds them to have fun enjoying each event—to not worry about the outcome as much”.
By the same token, younger students also enjoy the care and encouragement given to them by the older students. Over the years Bosveld has seen many older students cheering their younger team mates on as they compete.
This form of peer to peer mentorship is one of the reasons so many good memories have been made during CCS spirit days and field days.
For Bosveld, a moment during last year’s sack races stands out:
“One team had already won the race, sent up a quick cheer, then stood up and began encouraging a student on the other team who was struggling to stay upright while hopping to the finish line. The team captain of the student hopped along side of him all the way to the finish line voicing encouragements and both of the competing teams cheered them on. As the student crossed the line, there was a loud roar. Every student and adult around celebrated the accomplishment of that one student with huge smiles and boisterous cheers.”
These are the sort of shared experiences that energize CCS students and nudge them towards achieving their own personal best.
“As a staff member, I enjoy seeing the students use everything they are in God, and have from God during Field Day,” says Bosveld. “The day is truly a community celebration of the many gifts God has given our students.”