By Eoghan Cormican
The GAA has rarely been found wanting when it comes to engaging young kids inside the four white lines of a playing field.
But in these changed times, the goalposts have shifted.
The challenge now is to keep active the minds of the young from the confines of their own home.
This morning, the GAA launched an online learning programme which will provide daily challenges — both academic and skills-based — for primary school students.
For children and parents nationwide, adjusting to the new norm of learning from home, or at least attempting to learn from home, has been anything but a seamless transition.
And while students have been given lesson sheets and other tasks to keep them occupied while schools remain shut, the GAA are keen to lend a hand in engaging kids on the academic front.
Each day, a different subject will be explored. Today’s geography lesson focused on GAA clubs. Physical activities, such as mastering the art of the overhead catch, are also interwoven into the learning plans.
It won’t be for everyone, says the brains behind the initiative, Micheál Martin, but if the daily lessons help even a couple of children establish a school-like routine in their sitting room and back garden, that’ll have been enough.
Martin, who is chair of the national fixture analysts committee and vice-chairman of Wexford county board, is also a primary school principal. What drove him into action is a desire to assist parents in dealing with the fallout from school closures.
The challenge facing moms and dads is to keep their children academically engaged on a daily basis.
Martin previously oversaw the GAA Céim ar Aghaidh/Step Ahead teaching resource. Strands from that initiative have been pieced together with new material to create the programme which can be accessed at learning.gaa.ie/primary-school.
“Using the fun of Gaelic games, it delivers a range of exercises to support learning across all subject areas in the primary school curriculum. The idea is not to overwhelm parents or students. One learning activity and one physical activity will be suggested each day, with the subject area changing each day,” Martin explains.
“Teachers and schools have set work to be completed at home, but it’s important to acknowledge that this is a new and difficult experience for children. It is not the natural environment for children to be schooled from home.
My opinion as a school principal is that one learning activity such as we are providing, as well as continuous book reading, will satisfy children’s learning needs for now. It is also essential to get physical activity, while respecting social distancing, and we hope the skill challenges can inspire children to get out and practice their skills.
He added: “We know parents are crying out for help with the new situation of home-schooling and we hope this resource may be a small help to them in supporting their children. The materials are available on various GAA platforms and the aim is to circulate via email to county and club secretaries also.”
The first eight lessons have been drawn up and will be posted day-to-day. Thereafter, new content will be created on a weekly basis.
“We might even feature some lessons prepared by famous GAA players who are primary teachers.”
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