Value in video games

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rachel Cook shrieks with anticipation as her ball masterfully rolls down the alley, knocking the pins down.

With the aid of her teacher, Corey Christopherson, the fifth-grader learns to guide the Wii Remote with a turn of her wrist to mimic the motions of throwing a bowling ball.

Cook and about seven other students at Southgate Elementary School have the privilege of playing many different sports they may not have had access to or the ability to play otherwise.

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Thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Wal-Mart, Southgate has received two Wiis — versatile, innovative video game consoles made by Nintendo that allow players to interact with games on a level never seen before.

Christopherson is a physical education teacher for two adaptive phy-ed classes at the school. One class has seven or eight students in grades 1-5 with varying ranges of abilities; the other has three students who have been able to master the game a bit quicker.

“I think for some of them, they are going to get it, and for others, it may take them awhile, but they will get it,” said Sandy Mullenbach, a paraprofessional for the special education. “It makes them feel more incorporated with the other kids.

“The excitement of watching the ball … it’s a cause-and-effect thing,” she said.

Students participate in phy-ed three days a week; however, they were allowed play time on the Wii for only their second time on Tuesday.

“We’ve only had it a week or two, so they’ve been wanting to do it,” Mullenbach said. Most of the students, she said, were not familiar with the Wii before. They may work up to other sports as well, like baseball.

Christopherson applied for the funding last year through Wal-Mart’s Community Grant Fund after learning the store needed to distribute dollars for the program.

“Without Wal-Mart, there is no way we would have the funding,” he said.