THE NERF GUN AS A LEARN­ING TOOL?

Fred de Falbe fires a shot in sup­port of proper uses for the toy gun

EDP Norfolk - - Education -

MUCH has been writ­ten about the un­health­i­ness of vi­o­lent com­puter games, but are toy guns ac­cept­able for chil­dren to play with? This ques­tion con­fronted us briefly as par­ents when our chil­dren were small but melted away soon enough; none of them were much in­ter­ested.

Now, as a head teacher I en­counter the de­bate once again. By al­low­ing or en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to race round car­ry­ing some­thing roughly re­sem­bling a weapon, are we le­git­imis­ing con­flict and vi­o­lence?

One of the most pop­u­lar week­end ac­tiv­i­ties at Bee­ston is the one ded­i­cated to Nerf wars. Nerf (or NERF) ac­tu­ally stands for ‘non-ex­pand­ing recre­ational foam’. There is a daz­zling ar­ray of Nerf blasters now, mostly in vi­brant or­ange plas­tic, which fire harm­less foam darts with grat­i­fy­ing ac­cu­racy. Does this make all the chil­dren war­mon­gers?

Let me set the scene. The school sports hall was decked out in ob­jects and ob­sta­cles be­hind which com­peti­tors could crouch, or hide, run­ning from place to place. The chil­dren or­gan­ised them­selves into teams and dis­cussed bat­tle plans and strate­gies, gave each other tasks and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

There were bangs and crashes from the de­sign and tech­nol­ogy work­shop as some chil­dren made shields, ban­ners and stan­dards for each team. They ‘tooled up’ with out­landish uni­forms and camo-cream.

The sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion was ter­rific and with a handy smoke ma­chine the at­mos­phere was both elec­tric and hi­lar­i­ous as the chil­dren bat­tled for supremacy.

From my point of view this is learn­ing at its best. How­ever much we might wish it not to be the case, chil­dren are so aware of each oth­ers’ strengths and weak­nesses in the class­room. To en­able chil­dren to demon­strate their cre­ativ­ity and or­gan­i­sa­tional skill, their ne­go­ti­at­ing, their tac­ti­cal and lat­eral think­ing, their en­ergy and team­work, is ex­actly what we aim for at Bee­ston.

This, we know, is real prepa­ra­tion for the fu­ture. If foam darts and plas­tic blasters are the way to do this, then I am in – and this is just week­end re­lax­ation!

At Bee­ston Hall every day is an Open Day, so come and visit if you can­not wait for the Open Morn­ings which are tak­ing place on Fri­day and Satur­day March 2 and 3.

Fred de Falbe, head­mas­ter at Bee­ston Hall School, West Run­ton bee­ston­hall.co.uk 01263 837324

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