Sunday, 1 September 2013

Top School’s project allows Rotary Clubs to work together for youth

The Top Schools day sees Year 4, 5 and 6 students (seven to 10-year-olds) compete in a range of team games focusing on cooperation, challenge, skill and fun! Thirty-six teams, each with eight students compete over the day, aiming to score as many points as they can within an allotted time, in each relay and shuttle game. At the end of the day the points for each team are added up and prizes of sport vouchers, sport equipment and trophies are awarded to the top teams in each of the three grades.

Of course the announcement of the Top School, decided from the points across all grades, is always eagerly awaited by the competing students and the huge group of family followers! The Top Schools programme was introduced to Timaru after local Rotarian Ellwyn Mackie heard from friend and Past 9970 District Governor David Drake that a Top School event was successfully taking place in  Palmerston North. David shared a video of this Rotary run competition. Ellwyn was impressed the competition beni8fitted children through teamwork and did not merely focus on the individual. It met the Rotary youth challenge of giving children a chance. Being convinced of the merit in the day Ellwyn, with the support of Ron White, encouraged discussions resulting in Top Schools being established in Timaru.

Top Schools has now grown to involve the Timaru, Timaru North, Timaru South, and Temuka/Geraldine Clubs.  Every year a committee with representatives from each club involved meets several times to fi ne-tune and finalise preparations for the day. Availability of venue and equipment is checked. The safety of games is checked, and hazards identified and eliminated as much as possible. First Aid is always organised to be present on the day in case competitors become over exuberant!

Each Club organises and runs two team games. Games use a range of locally made equipment such as a wobbly wheels carts, stilts, tyre tubes blown up and tied together so a child can be rolled inside, and the ever popular water slide. The equipment made or bought for each game becomes the property of the club and after the day is stored for use the following year. A local school principal co-ordinates entries, creates the team draw and operates the microphone on the day. A quality outdoor sound system ensures all teams and all game stations can hear when each game starts and stops, and when each team should move on to the next game. This is vital to ensure the smooth running of the day.  Local Rotaract students, high school students involved in Duke of Edinburgh, and outdoor pursuit students from the local Aoraki Polytechnic also join in to help Rotarians run the games as the day is a long one, starting at 10am and finishing at 3.30pm.

Clubs set up their games at the start of the day at West End Park, before attending a helper briefing. Around the park students gather in school groups, complete with their school tents or gazebos and their school banners, before proudly joining the opening march past to the applause of all gathered. The enthusiasm shown in striding out to the stirring marching music brings a smile to the faces of all Rotarians gathered and creates a sense that all their efforts are worthwhile and rewarded!

One of the special features of Top Schools is it has a huge parent and family following. Families sit together in the shade of the trees to share lunch and compare stories of the morning’s efforts! This family engagement adds to the success of the day, and the enjoyment is evident in the smiles and laughter which echo around the park, none more so than when at the end of lunch a tug of war is held between schools. Trust Power, who sponsor the event, have a sign written vehicle in the middle of the tug of war with the rope attached at both ends. By the end of this activity, children are convinced the vehicle has been stretched by their efforts, especially when doors spring open and no longer close!

As Ellwyn Mackie concludes: “Youth is such an important part of any community. Top Schools provides a positive experience for the youth and their families of our community, highlighting good old fashion values that can be enjoyed by all who are involved. The fact high school students often volunteer to help because they have fond memories of  participating in the day in years gone by is testament to the value of the investment made by Rotarians. Nurturing our youth, gives hope to our future!”

Article courtesy of the Communities in Action book For more information about this Rotary publication go to: HERE