July 18, 2019
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How one Bangor school got kids to play outside instead of on their phones

It started when a Bangor Christian School parent built a ring in the parking lot of the school for the kids to play a game called Gaga ball. His son became a fan of the game after learning to play it at summer camp.

“The kids have been having a lot of fun with it,” said Jeffrey Benjamin, headmaster of Bangor Christian Schools. “It’s pretty easy to learn how to play and we were thinking of this more for elementary kids.”

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Elementary school students at Bangor Christian Schools play GaGa ball after school recently.

But what happened next surprised the faculty. The morning scene in the middle school usually features kids playing inside on their phones and electronic devices.

But once the game was introduced, it stopped.

“The hallways are empty and for fifteen to twenty minutes before school, this thing is full, and they’re laughing and joking and having fun,” Benjamin said. “That’s been a great thing to see.”

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Noelle Doughty, third grade, and Elliot Straubel, fifth grade, try to get each other out in a game of GaGa ball after school at Bangor Christian Schools.

Gaga ball, also called Octoball, has been played in summer camps for decades. The game is believed to have started in Israel as a gentler version of dodgeball. Ga means “touch” in Hebrew. By the 1970s, it was being played in some Jewish summer camps in the United States and over the past few years has seen a huge resurgence at camps, schools and youth activity centers outside of the Jewish community.

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Middle and high school students at Bangor Christian Schools play some fast-action games of GaGa ball before school starts.

The game is played in an octagonal ring. The basic object is to eliminate your opponents by hitting the ball with your hands and tagging other players below the knees while using the walls of the pit. The last person standing wins. As with any playground game, the actual details of the Gaga ball rules will vary from location to location.

The kids who have been tagged out and are not in the pit stand around watching and cheering and then leap over the wall to get into the next game when one ends.


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