By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
If you want to play in the Hawk's Nest at Shannon Johnson Elementary School, you have to be quick on your feet.
In the Hawk's Nest, commonly known as a “Gaga Pit,” around 15 fifth-graders were trying to avoid getting hit by a bouncy ball while inside of an enclosed wooden ring. At the same time, they were exercising throughout their entire 25-minute recess, said Hannah Edmondson, Fit Lab instructor at Shannon Johnson.
Groups of students rotate each game and can usually squeeze in five to six rounds during that 25-minute period, she said.
The rules are simple: Don't let the ball hit below your knees, don't knock the ball out of the Nest, only use your hands and don't touch the ball twice in a row. An elected referee makes the tough calls to decide who stays and who goes.
Eventually the numbers dwindle down to only two students in the Nest. They dodge, twist, run, dive and lurch to avoid the bouncy ball until there is only one student — the winner — is left standing.
The Hawk's Nest was one of the projects funded by a $2,500 “Praiseworthy Pioneer” award from ChildObesity180, an organization committed to childhood obesity prevention.
The Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP),a ChildObesity-180 initiative, launched the competition in February in commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America, according to a release from Madison County Schools.
The competition awarded schools with the “most creative, impactful, and scalable school-based programs and technologies to promote children's physical activity,” the release stated.
First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged participants in the competition with a call for applications via a video message.
Shannon Johnson used the money to improve outside activities for students to use during recess to provide more structured activities, such as the Hawk's Nest. The school also plans to provide activities that families can utilize after school hours.
The school purchased a game called Nine-Square-In-The-Air that is played in the gymnasium.
Nine-Square is a variation of the common playground game called Four-Square, a fast-paced game similar to volleyball, but with nine players situated in a grid.
Every elementary student will learn to play the game as soon as they get to second grade, Edmondson told a group of kindergarteners who got to watch their older classmates play the game Monday.
Shannon Johnson also plans to start a tennis program that will include an after-school tennis team, as well as the sport added to the school's curriculum. The funds will be used to purchase racquets, balls and a ball machine.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.