I love 9 Square in the Air! It’s safe to say that it’s one of my student’s favorite games also. They’re always asking to play it. I was super excited to see it now offered in the Gopher catalog. Growing in popularity, there are still many physical educators that do not know about this great game. In this blog, I want to share why I love the system and all the diverse ways we use 9 square in our gym.
I first learned about 9 Square in the Air coming off summer break several years ago. I was back in class with my students connecting with them about their summer. Many students mentioned attending summer camps and how they loved playing 9 Square in the Air. Never hearing about the game before led to me asking many questions, and a google search as soon as my students left the gym.
Naturally, with budget concerns, my brain instantly went to ‘how can make this DIY?’ Mapping out every piece needed to build this great system while making it affordable for my school. We were able to build two systems cheaply and my students were excited! This held us over for a year, but I quickly realized some things just should not be DIY (insert palm to face here). An investment in the authentic system needed to be made but was still slightly out of our reach, budget-wise.
While attending a TAHPERD conference, I met with the people who managed the 9 Square in the Air table in the exhibitor hall. Super great people! Luckily for me, the creators of 9 Square in the Air are Christian-based and offered a discount for church-based schools like us. We were thrilled, owning our first real system was now a reality for my students. I will share with you how we got two additional systems and access to a fourth system later with no out-of-pocket cost to our school.
At first, I did not even realize how limited we were with our DIY system until having the real deal in our gym. Having the real 9 square in the air system was a total game changer! The pole design is sturdy and super durable. Each pole locks into place making it impossible for any poles to pop out of place when hit with the ball. This was something we struggled with often using our DIY system. The system comes with storage bags! We, PE teachers all know we love a storage bag for easy storage. My DIY system is still a hot mess underneath my stage right now. Even better though, the real 9 Square in the Air system has adjustable heights making it possible to take this game down to lower elementary. Now more of my students can enjoy this awesome game!
Play This Game With All Ages!
Taking it down to lower elementary, pre-K – 1st grade, lead to some challenges in itself. How to rotate is especially challenging for young minds to comprehend. Modified rules needed to be created and implemented to help my students understand.
Here are some different ways I was able to help my younger students enjoy the 9sq system:
- Allow catches. We have coined the phrases: “toss and catch” and “play it FAST!”
- Use numbered poly spots to help with understand the rotation. Only move forward when a number ahead of you is available. Even still, be prepared for a struggle.
- Eliminate the rotation completely, if you do not catch the ball you go to the end of the line and the first person in line fills empty square.
- ‘The BEST square’ is a game I created to play with my pre-k classes: With the center square being the best square. If the person in the center does not catch the ball, then they switch with the person who threw the ball. The other squares do not rotate around, and it does not matter if the other squares around the center make the catch or not. Most of my pre-K classes have 9 students, so this mini game was perfect. If you have more than 9 students, you can make the center person move to the line when they do not make the catch, the person who threw the ball to the center, and the first person in line to the empty square.
With these slight modifications, my younger students were successful and enjoyed playing the game.
The Story Behind Getting Our Other Two Systems
Ok, sooooo…. I mentioned getting our second and third system at no out-of-pocket cost and I was able to do the same for my teacher friend as well. Giving me access to her system whenever I need a fourth. Pretty sweet deal. Here’s how we did it! We threw a 9 Square in the Air party after school one grade level at a time and charged the attending families $25 each. We played after school for two hours, but not just the regular 9 Square in the Air. We added interactive fabric to the systems, black lights and played NEON 9 Sq! So fun. Of course, we did a 5-minute Neon 9 sq teaser in PE first to build up the excitement about our afterschool party. Most kids were in attendance and excited to help raise money for two new systems. After the first year of hosting a few Neon 9sq parties, we had enough to purchase two complete systems plus the blacklight accessory kit. I then took the equipment we had and helped my friend do the same thing at her school to raise money for them to invest in their own system. Win, win!
Everyone who sees this game or plays this game falls in love with it. The 9 square system itself kinda reminds me of tinker toys. The locking pole pieces and joints make it easy to transform it for different uses. There are many possibilities to use the system other than the intended way to play the game. Which makes this one of the most versatile things we have in our gym closet. We’ve used our systems to create tunnels, walls, barriers, and bases. We’ve used them to help set the stage for nerf wars, snowball fights, and mazes. Really, you’re only limited to your creativity.