On Friday, February 25 one day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of my seniors asked me, "Will we be talking about Ukraine?" I said, "I'm not opposed to doing so, but I need some sort of connection to the curriculum." He nodded in understanding.
I teach Sports and Spirituality and often find an argument to teach about a wide range of topics; this one however got me thinking...and guessing. I taught about Ukraine's history, people, leadership and the conflict in Moral Issues—a required course for juniors. No rationale necessary. But, this young man's question stayed with me.
I woke up on Saturday morning only to read on my social media feed that world boxing hall of fame prizefighter "Wladimir Klitschko and his older brother Vitali, are defending their country amid Russia's siege." Connection made.
I would like to share my lesson plan with you.I named my presentation Sports, Spirituality and Ukraine...Beyond our Prayers. I included this image of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine on the cover slide. In a Religious Studies class, we are gifted with the opportunity to give voice to a person, place or cause through our prayer. And yet, my student's question invited me to go deeper. Thank you, Matthew.
The essential question of this lesson was not WHY we should talk about Ukraine; given what is unfolding in real time, I would like to believe "the why" is understood. Instead, I posited: How might we be able to talk about
the Ukraine in Sports and Spirituality (strike through on the is intentional)?
To frame our conversation I had students discuss with a partner
- What do you know about Ukraine?
- What are the most popular sports in Ukraine?
- Can you name any athletes who have defended their country? and fought in combat?
Sharing prior knowledge set the stage for "the how." Encyclopedia Britannica proved to be an excellent resource for images, maps and historical photographs.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that teachers should use maps as often as they can. I began with this map of Ukraine and the following bullet points.
I began by explaining why we say Ukraine, not “the Ukraine.” The name of the country, Ukraine, means “borderland” in Slavic. My next slide included a larger map of Ukraine's location in the world, and as a borderland to other countries. Ukraine is home to 44.1 million people. By comparison, California is home to 39.5m It is roughly the size of Texas.
And with that, it was time to commence the connection to Sport and Spirituality!
We live in precarious times. We know not what is to come for the people of Ukraine. Thanks be to God we have sport as another means by which to launch the conversation and spirituality as a pathway to call for continued prayers for peace.
Fan with flag