x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

School subjects that football can teach UAE kids

A new summer camp in Dubai is aiming to use sport as part of curriculum for children to understand their math, geography and even art.

Charlotte Jones, one of the students taking part in the summer camp at Dubai's Star International School, which aims to encourage students to learn about mathematics, geography and other subjects using sport as a teaching tool.
Charlotte Jones, one of the students taking part in the summer camp at Dubai's Star International School, which aims to encourage students to learn about mathematics, geography and other subjects using sport as a teaching tool.

Schoolchildren normally get into trouble if caught talking about football in the classroom.

However, one former professional player from England, Steven Whittaker, has devised a plan wherein pupils can spend a whole week discussing the beautiful game in class, and not only would they escape disciplinary measures, it would actually be part of their curriculum.

Whittaker, 30, is the general manager of the UAE base of the International Football Academy (IFA), which is running a summer camp at Dubai's Star International School.

His programme, in his own words, "tricks kids into learning through football".

The idea is for pupils to learn about mathematics, geography, history and art though the process of creating a fictional football club.

"On day one they are given a location for the club in a new area of the city," he said.

"We start with the team's name, which brings in geography because we look at the part of Dubai they would come from, why it's called that and where else in the world it is linked to."

Next up are lessons about mathematics, as pupils make plans to build a stadium and buy players.

"We give the kids a budget and leave them to decide how they can put together a 30,000-seater venue," he said.

"They work at making a profit and trying not to make a loss. They also buy in players. We give them Dh100 million and they have to go out and buy in a squad."

The programme for the students also includes lessons on art and history.

"They design strips and a badge as well, which not only introduces the art side of school, but also we deal with history because we would maybe have the emblem of a dhow or a Bedouin on the badge, and we look at what they have meant to the UAE in the past," Whittaker explained.

"We also have a science aspect by discussing how the players train, what they eat and how they look after their bodies.

"So there are all sorts of educational tools under the umbrella of football."

Whittaker and his IFA team had a successful dry run and he said the feedback from schools in Dubai was encouraging.

They spent a week at the Pakistani City International School last term and the course got a positive reaction from both pupils and staff.

"Cricket is their main sport, not football, and they were also using their second or even third language, so it was a good test to see if this worked - and it did," he said. "Now I believe we can go into any sort of school and shape the programme to suit."

Whittaker, who was on the books of Blackburn Rovers, the English Premier League side, is also coaching kids at IFA's summer camp, which runs to the end of Ramadan and will see more than 200 children come through its doors.

Yana Kalashnikova, 12, and Mahmood Skaik, 11, are two of the youths who spend up to six hours a day at the camp which promotes a healthy lifestyle as well as coaching football, cricket, basketball and other sports.

"The coaches here are great and they help us get better at all different sports," Yana said. "I have also played hockey for the first time and I will now play a lot more sport, and we don't get tired because we are eating the right things."

Mahmood agreed that the education aspect of the programme was helping him become a better athlete.

"We also are taught about eating fruit and vegetables for lunch because it gives us more energy and helps me to run about more and for longer," he said.

Whittaker said he hopes to "take this a step further and give something back to this country".

"I genuinely believe this football manager scheme can help kids' all-round education," he said "Football isn't the best sport in the world for nothing."

ncameron@thenational.ae


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