"It is no secret that humans can learn through play."
Play enables us to explore our environments and the effectiveness (and appropriateness) of certain behaviours. Children’s exploration and play are prototypes of intrinsic motivation fuelled by enjoyment and fun. So in order to stimulate learning and developing, children should be provided with platforms to manifest play: activities that engage them. These activities can then serve as tools to teach, as environments for children to explore and learn.
This is where skateboarding comes in: an extremely fun activity that even still engages many adults in play. This is where Edu-skate emerged from: after experiencing years of its practice, skateboarding’s potential for learning important life-skills became more and more evident. So naturally, all life-skills integrated in the curriculum are derived from skateboarding practice and culture. They happened to fit seamlessly into the literature on psychological well-being and personal development: skateboarding’s hallmarks are its social nature (relatedness), doing what you want to do (autonomy) and improving yourself (competence). This truly shows skateboarding’s potential to contribute to people’s lives in the most positive way possible!
Up until now, Edu-skate has been implemented in 2 different countries and 2 additional are in progress.
The Edu-skate programme was developed in response to the global phenomenon of children growing up in poor and underprivileged circumstances, often leaving them with very scarce (if any) opportunities to explore and develop their potential.
Edu-skate is a sports-based health intervention, aiming at stimulating personal development through skateboarding. In other words: valuable life education through the fun of skateboarding! The goal is to empower the children we work with by providing them with the tools to develop themselves into self-motivated and mentally healthy adults, in order to be agents of change in their lives and communities instead of victims of their circumstances.
To work on personal development, Edu-skate aims to stimulate psychological well-being and personal empowerment through skateboarding. But how does that work?
Edu-skate is based on the Self-Determination Theory, which states that humans have 3 basic psychological needs to satisfy for psychological well-being: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Not only does the extensive body of research on this theory show its utility in a number of different life-domains (such as education, work and physical activity), but furthermore, research suggests that these basic psychological needs are universal rather than depending on the culture you grow up in.
As a logical consequence, to contribute to psychological well-being Edu-skate focuses on developing the skills to satisfy these 3 basic psychological needs. The curriculum consists of a trajectory of 11 or these life-skill lessons. Every lesson is split in 2 parts: the first part is an organised lesson to work through a suitable skateboard activity on either a ‘competence’ life-skill, or a ‘relatedness’ life-skill. The second part of the lesson is focussed on ‘autonomy’.
Example: in today’s class we will work on the competence life-skill ‘courage’. After having discussed what courage is with the students (doing something even if it scares you), they will experience this themselves in the first part of the lesson: they are going to learn to drop-in. This is a very scary thing the first time: you literally have to let yourself fall forward, which makes it the perfect activity to work on courage. After adequate support by the teachers, the students should be ready to conquer their fear and drop in by themselves. In the break the teachers reflects with the students on their experiences of courage and discuss how this can be applied to life in general. After the break it’s free skateboarding time! The teachers don’t give instructions to the children but only supervise their skateboarding and help out where needed. This leaves the children with space for their own autonomous decisions.
With the constructive set-up of the curriculum, the students learn to apply slightly more difficult life-skills to slightly more difficult skateboarding activities each lesson. At the end of the curriculum they have worked on developing a basic set of skateboarding skills, as well as on developing multiple life-skills that lead to well-being and that they can take with them into the other domains of their lives.
The self-determination theory has its foundation in human motivation and distinguishes 2 main types of motivation.
Since it’s a critical element in cognitive, social and physical development, and the aim is to stimulate this personal development, Edu-skate’s focus is on working through intrinsic motivation. An autonomy-supportive teaching style is adopted by the teachers to encourage this.
Every weekend open skate sessions are organised for the students that are excited to skate more than their weekly class. These sessions are characterised by a bustling atmosphere: motivated students from different classes encounter each other here, make new friends over their shared excitement for skateboarding, practice together, learn from each other and push each other further in their abilities.
At the end of every semester a contest is held for the students. Besides serving as a platform for students of the different classes to come together and present themselves in a positive light by showing what they’ve learned over the semester, this day also serves to stimulate the students to push the very best out of themselves.
Part of the Edu-skate programme is the Youth Leadership programme. Local adolescents that are interested in skateboarding and have the intrinsic motivation to be a part of the project, can be recruited as youth leaders. These youth leaders help with teaching the classes and serve as role-models for the younger children of the classes, in both skateboarding and life-skills. They receive a training in how to teach skateboarding, how to teach life-skills through skateboarding and in being a role model in the community. In return for the responsibility they carry, they can borrow a skateboard from the project.
Besides their internalization of the life-skills discussed in the programme in order to teach these to the students, these youth leaders also get to practice with responsibility roles and leadership.
Their involvement and engagement in the project aims at stimulating a sense of ownership in them. This facilitates sustainability of the project, as the youth leaders get the opportunity to move on to a teacher position, continuing the cycle of local ownership of the project.