There’s plenty of learning to be done in the classroom but it’s important for kids to get outside and stretch their legs. That is what happens on Korean Sports Day!
One of the most important days for Korean students is…SPORTS DAY! On this special day that happens only ONCE a year, kids put down their pencils and spend all day outside competing in various events. From intense games of tug-of-war to thrilling relays, it’s a day to have fun and revel in friendly competition with peers. Korean Sports Day is also a day for families to visit the school and cheer on their kids. After all the games are done and prizes are awarded, kids run to their parents and grandparents and sit down to eat a picnic lunch or crispy fried chicken and pizza. Yum!
Korean Sports Day always begins with exercises; teachers lead their students in warm ups to get their bodies loose and ready for competition. 1-2-3! 1-2-3! Up, down! Up, down! Sometimes the principal leads exercises over the microphone.
One of my favorite games (shown above) is so much fun! Students run and pick up as many bean bags as possible and hurl them up at a container attached to a pole. The first team to crack their container open is the winner!! 축하합니다! (Chook-hahm-nee-da! Congratulations!)
Korean Sports Day games always involve teamwork and cooperation which are important for growth, socialization and development. Games that challenge the mind and get the body moving are essential. Teams (classes) are split into colors (“Blue” and “White”) and they win points for every event won. Students win trophies for winning races too!
Races and relays are the main events for any Korean Sports Day. It’s the time for school athletes to shine but there’s always the possibility of an upset! Families and teachers aren’t excluded from the festivities; I was pulled into a relay once! A boy had a piece of paper that said “Find the Foreign English Teacher.” Suddenly I saw a boy running towards me, he grabbed my hand and we were off towards the finish line!
After a cool down round of exercises, everyone cleans up the field. Kids get lots of hugs and kisses from family members as they walk home.
Now that you have the run down of a typical Korean Sports Day, how about learning how to make a popular outdoor/indoor game in Korea? 제기차기 (Jae-gi Cha-gi) is a traditional game that’s similar to hacky-sack. It’s also played in China and is a game of coordination and skill; you try to kick it as many times as possible using the side of your foot.
Making a 제기 (Jae-gi) is easy to do. I first learned how to make them in my elementary school Chinese language class.
To make a 제기 (Jae-gi), you’ll need:
- 2-3 Large metal washers or any metal object with a hole in the middle
- Cut several pieces of yarn (about 12 inches long) and set them aside. I used white yarn for this tutorial but I recommend a darker color (it will get dirty).
- Take a piece of yarn and fold it in half to make a loop. Thread the loop through the hole of the washer (s) and pull the loose ends through the loop as shown in the photo.
- Continue looping pieces of yarn through until the washer(s) are completely covered.
- Take a smaller piece of yarn and tie the strings together.
- Trim the pieces of yarn to your desired length!
If you prefer, here’s a tutorial for a paper Jae-gi! Get kicking! 🙂
If you’re interested in stories that discuss modern Korean/Korean-American life & culture, check out these great books! I hope you’ll travel to South Korea one day!
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Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez
Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts and Hyewon Yum
Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han
Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung