An epic 400-player game of tag to end 2020? Why not

A teacher at an international school in Switzerland explains how The Eliminator helped pupils unwind after a tough term
8th December 2020, 12:38pm
Tomas Duckling

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An epic 400-player game of tag to end 2020? Why not

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/epic-400-player-game-tag-end-2020-why-not
Coronavirus & Student Wellbeing: One Teacher At An International School In Switzerland Explains How The Whole School Took Part In A Game Of Tag Called The Eliminator To End The Term

It is Monday morning and there are students screaming and chasing each other across our campus.

One student is wearing a paper bag on his head, another is dressed all in black like some sort of ninja.

I see a student jump a fence, swing off a pole and evade the person trying to catch him. It takes all the restraint I have in the world to avoid shouting out to stop them.

After years of conditioning to be involved in some semblance of authority within a school, I have let it go and ignore the urge to tell them to behave sensibly.

One of the boys trips and stumbles into the snow, and his pursuer screams "eliminate!" before bursting into a shriek of joy as the boy on the floor buries his head in his hands. 

What is going on? This is The Eliminator. 

Coronavirus: Festive events to boost student wellbeing

Like for schools around the world, for us, this term has been long and challenging. We have faced restrictions and limitations in everything we would normally do and it has taken its psychological and emotional toll.

As an international boarding school, we were also concerned that students, facing quarantines and travel restrictions, would leave before the end of term to allow themselves more time at home but therefore miss out on valuable learning opportunities.

But then our prefect team came to us and asked if they could arrange a "spirit week" to bring smiles to people's faces as we approached the end of the longest of all terms.

Consequently, we have had theme days, fancy dress, whole-school quizzes, Christmas markets, board game nights and even a Covid-safe massage chair day to benefit wellbeing and raise morale.

However, nothing has made quite the impact of The Eliminator. 

Game on

In the simplest of terms, The Eliminator is a giant game of tag involving the whole school.

You need to "eliminate" a member of the community you are assigned in secret by shouting "eliminate!" and then touching them.

The school was divided into safe areas and game areas, and all week between lessons you could see students desperately trying to return to the safety of a boarding house or a classroom. The library has never been busier.

Students also donned disguises when not in safe zones to make it harder to be identified and eliminated - hence the paper bag. The fact that nobody knew who was chasing them led to an almost palpable level of awareness.

Extreme organisation 

The level of organisation was truly staggering.

Not only did the students write up game times, rules and regulations but there was also a complex system beneath the chaos that assigned targets and, when you were eliminated, gave your victor a new prey.

The whole thing was recorded, systematised and communicated as well as any school event I can remember. The school was abuzz all week. All anyone could talk about was the game and who was still standing. This didn't come without issues.

Keeping some order

We had to introduce a rule that being late to lessons "because of The Eliminator" led to automatic elimination, and there were times when the game was on the verge of descending into outright warfare.

But everyone played fair and by the rules and there were no major incidents to report. The two finalists even decided to share their victory rather than have a final decider, and shared their winnings. Most of the money raised went to charity.

However, as we reflect on the week, despite all the challenges 2020 has presented us with, the school experienced a genuinely inspirational and memorable shared experience filled with laughter, fun and joy.

Students were proud to be involved in something that felt different and real and, in this year of all years, was based around movement, the outdoors and, almost rebelliously, socially distanced contact

Caught unawares

For those interested about my own performance…At 8am on Monday morning, the first day of the game, a student I know well turned up at my office (not in a safe zone).

They asked me what time the game started. I looked down at my watch and was about to answer, and before I did so I heard the shout…

Well there's always next year…

And it would only be right, given this was an almost entirely student-devised and managed game, to let the student who organised it, Vanja Asberg Montgomery, offer their thoughts:

For the past week, the school campus turned into a battlefield. From wigs to masks, each student was trying their best to hide their true identities in order to keep playing the Aiglon Eliminator.

After 13 weeks of homework, deadlines and quarantining in houses, the student body was extremely tired of the same routines. Therefore, in combination with Spirit Week, we introduced Aiglon Eliminator.

Each student, or teacher, was given a random person to "eliminate" (chase and tag) and was at the same time chased by another participant. Consequently, daily consultations with different year groups became a requirement to track down and localise each participant's target. Leaving to get to one's classroom, also known as a designated "safe area", was essential to stay "alive."

No questions were asked if someone was hiding in a bush or if a participant had memorised their target's schedule. Although the game brought the community together, the competitive side of Aiglonians was definitely prominent. On the second day of the game, I held a "trial" to determine if an elimination was valid or not. After both of the parties provided witnesses, we eventually came to a fair verdict: each participant would be given a new target to eliminate.

Aiglon Eliminator really encouraged the students to speak to one another. Although the game was supposed to be an individual competition, I noticed how students and teachers of all ages helped each other to come up with the best possible elimination strategy.

The game really added a special dimension and excitement during the last week of term.

Tomas Duckling is director of learning at Aiglon College in Switzerland

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