Northern Ireland’s “Gate Game”

Today we found ourselves at session five of eight with our Primary Seven class (ages 10-11) from Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagain and Edenbrooke Primary School. The theme of this week’s session was ‘Discrimination and Sectarianism’.

To begin, we play a game called the “Gate Game”, a personal favorite of mine. Most of the kids know me as fun, jokey Coach Joanne, but for the Gate Game I take on a more drill sergeant persona. The children line up and approach the front, one at a time, and then I direct them to either side of the room. Once the group is divided into two groups, it is then revealed which side is the ‘good side’ and which is the ‘bad side’.  The good side will receive high fives and the bad side must complete a ‘punishment’ (push-ups, sit-up, etc).  The group is split up on four categories; hair color, eye color, gender and shoe color. I generally choose the side that I would belong to as the good side, making anyone who isn’t like me do the punishment. We then discuss with the children if they think it was fair how I split them up and punished certain children based on how they looked.

This leads us nicely into our discussion surrounding discrimination and we talk about the four main types of discrimination that affect the children most; racism, ageism, sexism and sectarianism.

We then introduce the activity called the ‘Line of Sectarianism’. The facilitator/coach will have several scenarios written on separate cards, and then the group is asked to read them aloud and decide whether they are sectarian, not sectarian or somewhere in the middle. Some of the scenarios involved include: a Catholic boy throwing stones at a bus full of Protestant school children, Catholics and Protestants playing football with each other, and a Protestant boy watching a St Patrick’s Day parade. The discussion is concluded by asking the children what they think they could do to try and make Northern Ireland a sectarian-free country.

This is most definitely my favorite community relations discussion that we have with the young people here in Northern Ireland. Below is a short video of the two activities and some of the interesting stories that the young people shared with the group:

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