The referee gives the signal and the two children take off from the starting line, spurred on by teammates chanting their names. But the object of their desires isn’t a basketball, soccer ball or dodge ball.
What’s got these Grade 4, 5 and 6 pupils at Centennial Public School all riled up is a collection of six large, multi-coloured cups.
Speedstacking, which involves stacking and unstacking plastic cups as quickly as possible, is the latest effort to get these students active – and so far, it’s worked.
“It’s different. Most sports you use a ball and stuff, but this sport you stack. It’s kind of new and stuff so it’s fun to play. It’s not like any other sport,” says Adeena Qudrat, one of about 30 students at the school who’s part of the speedstacking club.
The hardwood floors in the gymnasium squeak with the sound of running shoes as the children rush up to the table.
Most people are stationary when they take part in the sport, but at Centennial, they’ve put a slight twist on the game in an effort to get kids active.
Instead of standing still and playing individually, the kids work together on teams of four or five. They run up to a table to stack, then run back and slap the hand of the next person who takes their turn doing the same thing.
The game encourages teamwork. As one child stacks the cups, all the other teammates cheer along and chant their name. When one child finishes stacking before his opponent standing opposite, he encourages him to finish.
“You did great,” one of them says after his teammate returns from stacking.
“I think it’s a great technique for motivation and teamwork,” says Nathalie Guay, a student teacher who has been working at the school on placement for her education degree from Potsdam University in New York. “They’re working together.”
Guay started helping out with the activity when she came to the school nearly two months ago. She’s been hooked on the activity and its benefits in the classroom.
Teachers held a special tournament at the school last year to get their colleagues interested in using it. Steve Smith, a fifth-grade teacher, started the game with his students in September.
“The first thing we actually saw was the video that our teacher actually made us watch and then we all loved it,” says Joud El-Dweiri, another student at the school. “And then he gave us some speedstacking cups and then we just started doing it immediately.”
The kids started by doing the activity for half an hour every
But the game proved so popular that, eventually, the teachers started a speedstacking club. Once weekly, about 30 children make their way to the gym to get some extra practice.
On the walls of the gymnasium, scratched out in neat multicolored marker on faded paper taped to the wall, are some of the best times for both individuals and teams.
Janice Woolgar, a learning support teacher at the school, says the speedstacking experiment has proved so popular with grades four, five and six that she hopes to expand it so children in other grades can take part as well.
They still can’t stack them as quickly as the people they watch in the YouTube videos, says student Arash Payman.
Of course that doesn’t mean they never will.
“Maybe someday, yeah,” he says. “When we grow up.”