Getting kids active through education, movement and understanding

Jun 2 2021

Associate Professor Narelle Eather knows the pressure on teachers to cover the curriculum while keeping kids engaged and active. Before teaching at the University of Newcastle and becoming a HMRI Physical Activity Researcher she taught primary and secondary school students. 

Narelle found an opportunity to combine Education, Movement and Understanding – the EMU Program was born! 

EMU links physical education with traditional Indigenous games, while also developing literacy and numeracy in primary school children. 

“In Australian children today there’s a drop in physical activity and fitness but also numeracy and literacy. A program that can tap into all of that efficiently, that kids also enjoy, is really important,” Narelle said. 

“By using Indigenous games, we hope to improve ball skills, fundamental movement skills plus their understanding of culture.” 

There are several Indigenous games that are like games children already play. They learn the historical aspects of the games, including where they originated and why they were played. For instance, one of the Goori games is about practicing throwing a spear and hitting a target, traditionally a ball made of kangaroo skin. The children substitute with beanbags thrown at a big fitness ball. 

Other games are Buroinjin Kabi Kabi which uses catching and passing skills like netball, and Wana which is similar to cricket. 

Narelle has also embedded maths and English elements into the activities. “We can really see the kids engaging – learning spelling, challenging themselves with multiplication, division, addition
and subtraction.”  

The EMU program was recently trialled at Waratah West Public School where teacher Katie Thann says the kid’s reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“They thoroughly enjoy the program and look forward to participating every week,” Katie said. 

“We’ve also seen improvements in their academic outcomes, particularly spelling and numeracy. 

In the future, Narelle hopes to make this program available to all schools, providing an active program the kids enjoy that also promotes learning and cultural awareness.


The EMU Program is proudly supported by the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation