Cricket: Teaching About the World Through International Sports

7 January 2012


Mary O'Brien is a physical education teacher at the Douglas and Merriam Elementary Schools in Acton, Massachusetts. After attending Primary Source's Asians in the U.S.: Migrations, Challenges and Achievements summer institute, she was inspired to introduce an international element to her 4th through 6th grade classes by teaching her students how to play cricket.

In addition to learning the skills, equipment, and rules of the game, Mary's students looked at maps to identify countries around the world where cricket is played. She interviewed parents of Indian-American students – some of whom had grown up playing cricket in India – to figure out how to engage kids in smaller games with adapted rules conducive to a 45-minute class period. "The kids were genuinely interested and wanted to learn about and play cricket," Mary says. "I was most amazed by how quickly the kids took to the sport and truly enjoyed it!"

In one of her classes, four Indian-American students and one Australian-American student with experience playing cricket led their classmates in understanding the rules and format of the game. "I loved seeing the excitement on my Indian-American students' faces when they raised their hands to answer questions or added to my descriptions," says Mary. She is planning on sharing the unit with the other four elementary schools in her town, and perhaps even organizing an inter-district cricket match with a nearby school.

Also this year, Mary has been expanding her students' knowledge of the world by adding a global dimension to the games and sports traditionally taught in elementary school. Now, whenever she introduces a new sport or skill, she references a large National Geographic world map she posted on the gym wall and prompts her students to think about where else in world the sport might be played. "In the past, I had been primarily focused on teaching the kids skills and teamwork. But kids are naturally curious, and I find it only takes a few minutes to expand their thinking outside our school and country to the bigger world."

Mary believes it is important to help all of her students see themselves reflected in the curriculum and imperative to integrate other countries and cultures into her teaching. "More than ever before, my students will be connected to people and events all over the world when they are adults. The Internet and ease for global communication are already making the big world a smaller place." Furthermore, she says, "Being a responsible citizen now means more than just knowing what is important in your own community. We are all responsible for shared resources and respecting communities all around the world."





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