Students bring traditional Arctic games to GV campus

GVL/Bo Anderson

Xinyi Ou tries her hand at the reindeer ring toss at the first annual GVSU Arctic Games.

GVL/Bo Anderson Xinyi Ou tries her hand at the reindeer ring toss at the first annual GVSU Arctic Games.

Briana Doolan

Students, faculty and community members got a little taste of the holidays last Friday morning when passerbyers and attendees alike had the chance to participate in games from both Inuit and Saami cultures – live reindeer and all – near Grand Valley State University’s Cook Carllion clock tower.

The event was hosted by a new course in the movement science department called “In Search of the Meaning of Games in Life: A Journey to the Circumpolar World,” and with help from Padnos International Center, the President’s Office, Student Affairs, and the Honors College, the course was able to host The Exhibition of the Arctic Games.

John Kilbourne, movement science professor, created the course based off of research he completed on circumpolar games. Kilbourne’s research included two sabbaticals to the Arctic – Canada (Inuit) in 2001, and Norway (Saami) in 2010.

“The course helps our students understand the deeper meanings of the games we play, both traditional and modern,” Kilbourne said.
Students were told to select a traditional Inuit or Saami game, research the game, create a model of the game and then were required to be able to teach it to others.

Junior Calla Van Atta, business economics major, said students in the class have learned how important the games played in Saami and Inuit cultures are to their idendity.

“We have learned about how these games have shaped the culture of these arctic peoples and the role of play and games in the growth and development of individuals in general,” Atta said.

Atta and classmate Casey VanDenBerg were in charge of creating the Saami farm games, construting dioramas that represented typical farm scenes that Saami children would create.

Junior Alyssa Gantz, exercise science major, was part of the group responsible for choosing the physical activity games of the Inuit. The group chose six games to highlight at the exhibition, including the musk ox push, sitting knuckle pull, Tug-O-War, caribou jump, airplane and the blanket toss.

“My favorite part of the event was probably watching other students attempt the High Kick, and of course the reindeer,” Gantz said.

Kilbourne said the purpose of the event was to share traditional games with the GVSU community and beyond, inviting local schools and West Michigan community members to join in.

“My favorite part was seeing the excitement of the students from the class who were able to share their games, and all that they had learned in their junior seminar,” Kilbourne said.

Gantz said she thought the event was a huge success.

“Not only was there a pretty much constant crowd of students, but we also had other guests from the community come to see the reindeer and try some of the games,” Gantz said. “I would definitely suggest this class to other honors students who still need to take a Junior Seminar. I think it is a unique class that students can get a lot out of.”

Kilbourne said the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who came out for the event happily exceeded his expectations, and affirmed not only the importance of learning about other cultures, but it also affirmed his role as a professor.”

“As a professor our students always come first,” Kilbourne said. “Given opportunities, they meet and exceed expectations. I am gracefully appreciative of all who supported this very special day.”
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