Fun and games with Folklore
Each year, graduate students in the Department of Folklore’s Public Folklore course (FOLK 6740) have the opportunity to plan and facilitate a public program over the course of a semester. This year, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada New Horizons for Seniors Program, and an ongoing partnership with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL), the students were part of an intergenerational program with senior volunteers to learn and share stories about traditional play and games.
Throughout February 2015, students in Dr. Jillian Gould’s course regularly visited St. John’s MacMorran Community Centre. Each student was paired with two seniors who, through recorded interviews, shared details of the childhood games of yesteryear.
Activities such as skipping, marbles, cat’s cradle and hop scotch were discussed and, in more than a few cases, played by the students and seniors together.
“It was great to hear the rules for alleys [marbles] and to play new games such as Little Sally Saucer. I also learned about how to make paper dolls, and how to choose who would go first in a game. It was also very interesting to hear about the toys and equipment they made themselves. From alder branches and cow's bladders as hockey sticks and pucks, to cardboard or canvas for summer sliding - the participants' creativity really stood out,” said student Terra Barrett. “I really appreciate the opportunity we had to interact with the community and particularly the seniors in this project – it’s made the course much more interesting and engaging.”
Portraits and bios of the seniors, along with photographs and excerpts from the recorded interviews, including stories, rules of the games, and even original poetry will be featured in a booklet entitled Looking Back: Games We Played. The booklet celebrates the seniors’ contributions and role as tradition-bearers in the community. Copies will be distributed to the participants, as well as to community centers and local libraries. It will also be available online. The students and seniors will celebrate the booklet launch on Tuesday March 24 from 10 am to 12 noon at the MacMorran Centre on Bell’s Turn in St. John’s. All are welcome to attend.
“We are so delighted with the results of the project. The students and senior volunteers developed such a nice rapport — there was much laughter and warmth as stories and songs were shared and recorded. Childhood games are excellent examples of the transmission of folklore: how skills and knowledge are passed along informally by observation or imitation. Despite age gaps, the students and seniors found many commonalities in the games they played,” said Dr. Jillian Gould of the folklore department. “It is our hope that the booklet will be a springboard for further conversation, encouraging more intergenerational activities that focus on documenting and celebrating games, play and traditional culture.”