Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Jake Richardson, a fourth-grader at West Kearns Elementary, and other children play Korfball Friday during "Passport to Play," a program that teaches kids to play games from around the world.

KEARNS — It's not every day you see students on the playground starting up a game of Korfball, Break the Snake or Buka Ball. But leaders at West Kearns Elementary hope to see kids doing just that after Ronald McDonald brought the Passport to Play program to the school Friday.

Passport to Play, the school-based program aimed at motivating kids to be more active in fun ways while celebrating diversity, made its first and only stop in Utah Friday on a nationwide 54-city tour to teach children new physically active games from around the world.

West Kearns principal Jolene Randall said playground games have become somewhat of a lost art due to video games and technology eclipsing old-fashioned tag.

"A lot of times kids don't know what to do to play," Randall said, who said in the past her school has had problems with fighting and bullying on the playground. "They used to just mill around at recess and insult each other's mothers until a fight broke out."

Randall said improvements came a few years ago when she implemented social skills and peace-builder programs and hired college students from the University of Utah to come play with the kids at recess, teaching them how to play outdoor games.

But through Passport to Play she hopes students will have a tool that will open them up to other games and relate to each other culturally.

More than 50 percent of the students at West Kearns are minorities. Shaunna Hebertson, student achievement specialist at the school, said learning games from other cultures is valuable for students to make connections with each other.

"Students can identify with the countries and have that personal feeling of belonging — that's huge to create an environment where kids really feel they belong," Hebertson said.

Students were taught games including Tlatchtli, from Mexico; Korfball, from Holland; Kung Fu Says, from China; and Buka Ball, from Thailand. The program also teaches other games from Australia, Colombia, Russia and Africa.

Since 2005, the Passport to Play program, which is sponsored by McDonald's, has visited 36,000 public elementary schools. Educators use an interactive Web site to download curriculum materials in order to integrate them into lesson plans.

"We want to help promote a healthy lifestyle among kids," said Rob Sparrer, owner and operator of a few Utah McDonald's. "It's not just about what you eat, it's what you do."

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