By Jane Long
Students enjoy outdoor recess with lots of game choices.
Taylorville – Four third-grade students at North Elementary School urgently request bean bags from the playground supervisor in order to play hopscotch as outdoor recess starts. They grab the bags, run to the game board stenciled on the concrete and get organized to play. They giggle and talk as they take turns hopping from square to square.
Other students anxiously wait to get equipment for different games and activities.
Outdoor recess is even more fun this year, according to the students, especially on the days when they play on the concrete at the playground, an area that used to be considered the “boring” place to play.
Now that former wasteland contains 29 games and activity diagrams for students in grades K-3 after a program called Peaceful Playgrounds was implemented at the school. Lots of colors and shapes are stenciled on the concrete – hopscotch, alphabet chain, number sets, alphabet toss and other games that use both motor and physical skills.
The students really enjoy all the games. “There is a whole lot of different things to do now,” said third-grader Austin Reed. “I’m very glad that they put this on our playground,” added his hopscotch playmate Samantha Belsher. “I really like to play over here now,” said Veronica Milligan. “Hopscotch is my favorite,” said Sarah Liu, “but there is just so much to do.”
Another student offered the opinion that the other kids were now friendlier at outdoor recess.
Playground supervisors agree. “I think that it (Peaceful Playgrounds) is great. It keeps them busier. I’ve seen a definite change in attitudes about each other and playing. The kids look forward to playing over here, rather on the playground equipment,” said Kay Champley, playground supervisor for grades K-3. “This makes recess more organized. There is less rough-housing and less hostility.”
“This program is wonderful. There is definitely less conflict on the playground,” said supervisor Regina Harrison, who monitors recreation for grades 4 and 5 on another playground area at the school. “There are more activities to do, and the kids are learning while they play. There are certain rules for each game, and there is less conflict on the playground.”
Principal Susan Morrison agreed that teachers are also seeing a difference. “So far, there has been a big improvement after initiating this program. It has drastically reduced the number of discipline problems.”
Records at the school show that this time last year, there had been 30 incidents of discipline problems on the playground, while this year there have been only two.
The number of kids coming into the office complaining of sickness during recess has also decreased, according to Morrison. “The students want to stay out and play. I think some of them were bored last year, so they would come in, complaining of headache, fever or something when there really wasn’t any sickness.”
Peaceful Playgrounds is based upon the idea that several well-marked games provide increased motivation for children to enter into an activity and become engaged in purposeful play, thus decreasing the number of playground confrontations. It can help manage a playground, allowing the school to better utilize the area.
Students are more evenly distributed throughout the playing area with more to do on the playground, leading to more children engaged in healthy often educational, purposeful play.
Utilizing colored game markings which are age-appropriate and designed to increase motor skills. Peaceful Playgrounds encourages positive play.
Another component of the program provides training for the students to develop and use resolution skills to reduce discipline problems.
“The students have definitely learned from the conflict resolution guidelines that are an intrinsic part of the program,” added Morrison. “Teachers, supervisors and students have all the extensive training about the games and methods of resolution.
“Teachers say that they have seen a definite difference, which lessens the time that we spend resolving problems.”
Parents volunteered in August to paint and diagram the playground areas at the school, using a kit purchased by the PTA that included blueprints, stencils and games.
“This program is successful, too, because the parents really jumped into it ” Ellen DeSart and all the other volunteers,” added Morrison.
Peaceful Playgrounds was developed by Melinda Bossenmeyer in 1978. Bossenmeyer is a former teacher who holds a master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis on children’s motor development and a doctorate in educational leadership.
The program has received from several groups and magazines related to physical education, like the American Association for Leisure and Recreation and “School Safety Magazine.” It is currently implemented in more than 7000 schools nationwide.