Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

Gaga for Gaga Ball

"Gaga is like its own world right now,” Kathleen Nicholson remarks. GFA students are ‘Gaga for Gaga’ after the installation of the new Gaga Pits on the Front Lawn and by the turf fields. 

The 2021-2022 school year provided a return to normal as students were once again able to play in large groups during recess. This change brought to the teachers’ attention a need for some elements of structure within the students’ free play time. Over the summer, as the 2022-2023 school year approached, Lower School faculty members recalled the students’ enthusiasm towards Gaga Ball. Through a partnership with the  Lower School, Middle School, and other faculty and staff members, leaders in the community worked towards ensuring that more Gaga Pits were built at GFA. We sat down with Kathleen Nicholson, Assistant Head of Middle School, to talk about the impact these new spaces have had on GFA students. 

Gaga Ball is “just pure joy, pure play. While also allowing students to work on: how do you work together and how do you compete positively?” Gaga Ball is a game that is relatively quick and easy to learn. It engages students as young as second grade, all the way through eighth grade. “[This year] it worked out nicely that the way our schedules are, [Lower School and Middle School] recess doesn’t overlap, we have our own time that we’re able to use it.” This scheduling allows students to play with other students of similar ages, so that the game is fun and inviting to everyone involved.  

Gaga Ball also provides a space that is inclusive to everyone. In Middle School, at a time when students are trying to figure out various social dynamics, Gaga is a place where none of that matters. “Especially the younger kids, they are thirsty for that structured play. It’s a nice transitional step. You have independence in this space, but there are some rules. [Gaga Ball] can be a whole group activity. What we’ve been doing is saying 20-25 kids can play at a time, but then everyone else lines up around the outside and they’re cheering for them. Anyone who wants to play can do so, or even if they don’t want to jump in - there are kids who like to observe, or haven't wanted to play but they like being the door person. So, everyone can find their space.”

The creation of the new Gaga Pits was a response to the Lower and Middle School students’ desires. “This is something that we knew they liked and wanted to play, so just responding to the things that they’re into always helps.” Even for the older Middle School students who weren’t as immediately drawn to the game, they have seen their classmates from the fifth and sixth grade play and have  begun to join in on the fun, “it’s a good example of, if you build it, they will come.” 

These new Gaga Pits allow students to “just play, do your own thing, cheer, [and] find your own space. It’s not a high pressure situation. You don’t have to keep people’s attention with your behavior or what you’re talking about. You just go there, play, and everyone’s on the same page. It’s low stakes, high fun.”