Look Out Below!

Collaboration across the district brings a gaga ball pit to Boulevard students


Emily Shrestha

Boulevard students enjoy a game of gaga ball in the newly-built gaga pit.

Boulevard students are going gaga, thanks to a lunch aide, two principals, a Flex Block coordinator, an English teacher, four sophomores and the Shaker Schools Foundation.

The game of gaga ball is a variation of dodgeball that originated in Israel in the 1970s. It quickly spread to Jewish summer camps all over the world. Gaga means “touch, touch” in Hebrew.

The goal of the game is to eliminate opponents by striking them anywhere below the knee with the ball. Players don’t throw the ball, as in dodgeball, but propel it by hitting it with their hands. Gaga pits are now commonly found at recreation spaces such as Thornton Park.

Sue Roth, lead lunch aide at Boulevard Elementary, sparked the building of a gaga pit at the school. “One of the games we rotate for the field was gaga, and I would have tons of kids out there. The kids really enjoyed it and would request gaga,” Roth said.

Roth asked Boulevard Principal Neal Robinson about the possibility of building the pit. Robinson agreed with the idea, and they constructed a team to help create it. Robinson contacted SHHS Principal Eric Juli about whether students would be interested in building the pit. Juli suggested it as a Flex Block activity.

Flex Block Coordinator Molly Peabody emailed staff to find someone willing to sponsor the project. English Department Chairwoman Emily Shrestha sponsored the idea during Flex Block, and sophomores Coleman Lauritsen, Jake Leeson, Evan Mears and Matthew Jones took up the project.

¨I was approached by Ms. Peabody, who just put an email out to the staff that asked if anyone was interested in helping with the project,” Shrestha said.

Shrestha has a connection to Boulevard and wanted to help. “Currently, my daughter is a fourth grader at Boulevard. I was like, that would be fun as far as the Flex Block offerings,” she said.

Shrestha said that this project will help provide more opportunity and enjoyment for students during recess. “I think that Boulevard has one of the smaller playgrounds. It’s not as big, there aren’t as many pieces as Mercer, for example, and it’s not new, like Fernway,” Shrestha said.

Shrestha said that the gaga pit will add variety to the Boulevard playground. “I think it will give the kids another alternative thing to do. Right now at recess, they’ve got scooters and blacktop play, but not a ton of things for the number of kids that are out there at recess,” Shrestha said.
“It seems like something that will benefit Boulevard, and because I love Boulevard, and I’m a parent there, it was something I was totally excited to join,” she said.

Shrestha said that the Shaker Schools Foundation funded all of the materials that were needed for the project. Laura Orazi, director of development for the foundation, said that the foundation funds projects around the community, including Boulevard’s gaga pit.

The gaga pit, completed April 15, has eight sides, each of which are about 8 feet long. The pit has a diameter of 20 feet 2 inches and a 2-foot height.

One of the sophomores, Coleman Lauritsen, said he is grateful for the foundation’s and Orazi’s support. He also said he is excited for the Boulevard students to play gaga. “It’s a fun game. It’s not huge in Shaker, and I think it could be, because it’s super fun,” Lauritsen said.

“Personally, I think it would be more fun than going on a slide 80 times during recess,” he said. “I mean, I can’t tell how the kids will react, but I would’ve been pretty stoked to have a gaga pit when I was at Lomond.”

This story was originally published May 11. It has been corrected to reflect the origin of the gaga pit project. 

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