Several traditional board games have been introduced to hundreds of children by a retired School District #83 teacher.
Wilf Pauls, a former teacher-librarian at Bastion Elementary School, retired from the district last November. Not able to stay away from education, Pauls got the idea of visiting schools throughout the Shuswap and sharing his love for traditional board games in the spring of 2019. His gaming crusade has only been on the road since October, but he has already reached well over 1,000 children within the district.
Working with school librarians, Pauls brings in a few different games for the students. The games include sjoelbak, with origins in Holland and Belgium, pitchnut, a game with French Canadian origins, crokinole, similar to the Indian game carrom but considered a Canadian invention, and the more commercially available table hockey.
Pauls’ presentations of the games include an introduction of himself, an explanation of the rules to each game along with some of the game’s history. Then, depending on the time allotted, students spend 7-8 minutes on each game before rotating to the next. Once the students have played all the games, Pauls reads them his latest book based on a true story called The Crokinole Kid.
The book is based on his grandson learning to play crokinole and going to the BC Crokinole championships with his grandfather.
Different from board games normally found in libraries like chess or checkers, the games Pauls introduces he believes are more active and do more for the students.
“There are so many values that I see in this because it’s engaging,” Pauls said. “This will engage you socially, there is skill development, you learn how to win, you learn how to lose, you learn how to be gracious – the social value of this is incredible.”
While Pauls is not against video games, he is concerned about video game addiction. This concern is one of the motivators behind his desire to keep teaching the games.
Megan Reed, a teacher-librarian at Shuswap Middle School (SMS) invited Wilf Pauls for a week-long series of classes. With three classes a day, each with around 50 students per class, Reed said that nearly the entire 668 student population of SMS had been taught the games.
“Everybody’s really enjoying it,” Reed said. “They’re meeting new kids, they’re socializing, they’re active and it’s just been a real hit.”
The games have been so popular that she has had kids come into the library in the morning before classes start to play the games. Due to the obvious popularity Reed is looking to acquire some games to keep in the library for good.
“I’m seeing a huge place for it and that’s really why I want to try and get some games into the library now,” Reed said. “There’s the whole social aspect and the interacting face to face and the reading people’s emotions and being kind.”