By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
In their physical education classes, Mark Twain Elementary School students are learning a game that's new and novel to them but is actually centuries old.
Bocce ball was invented by Roman soldiers about 260 B.C.
Physical education teacher Tom Owens said he got the idea for teaching the game from a conference he attended over the summer.
"The nice thing about it is that non-athletes can play and play well at it," he said. "It's a combination of bowling and horseshoes. It's fun and competitive."
Owens, who has been teaching P.E. at the Angels Camp school for 16 years, said his students learn about a dozen games during the school year. Among them this year are golf and bocce ball.
"I'm a gym teacher without a gym, so we have to do a lot of outdoor activities," he said. Yesterday, about 30 seventh-graders got their first golf lessons, and Friday, the students learned the basics of bocce ball.
By the end of the school year, all 220 P.E. students will have learned both games, along with volleyball, track and field, softball, flag football, ultimate Frisbee and several other team sports.
"The kids (in our culture) are doing less and less physical stuff on their own," Owens said. "I'm trying to introduce them to fun games they can play for the rest of their lives."
Popular in Italy, bocce ball is a lawn bowling game involving four balls of one color and four of another. It can be played by two people, or by two teams of up to four players. Players of one team seek to place their balls nearer to a target ball than their opponents and also displace their opponents' bocce balls.
"Finding lifelong sports to play is hard, but bocce ball and golf are two."