September 2003
Peaceful Playground design

Sample school playground design by Peaceful Playgrounds.

By Lynn Atkins
Rogers Hometown News

At Bellview Elementary, the newest tool for teachers measures 40 feet by 100 feet.It’s their new playground design by Peaceful Playgrounds.  It’s also the perfect example of teamwork between the school, the parents and the city, according to playground improvement coordinator Stacey Kinzer.

The Peaceful Playground was initiated by former principal Katy White who retired last year. The new playground design was a completed by a committee of parents and teachers with a little help from the Rogers Park and Recreation Department, Kinzer said.

The idea, Kinzer explained, was to give students more things to do at recess and ways to do those things without any aggressive behavior. At the same time, the Peaceful Playground design gives teachers another way to reach children and reinforce some basic concepts with movement.

White purchased the kit, which came along with books full of games and instructions.

There are five principles for a Peaceful Playground, Bellview P.E. teacher Dana Meshell said. The first is the right markings to keep lines of students orderly. The second is consistent rules.

A method of resolving conflicts is the third principle, and it will be used at recess, in P.E. classes and all over the school.

The right playground equipment is another important principle. The Bellview PTA purchased most of the balls and Frisbees last year, as well as the tether balls and fun-ball system.

Consistent expectations is the final principle of Peaceful Playgrounds.

On the advice of Jim Welch, Rogers park and recreation director, the committee surveyed the students to see who needed more to do at recess. The survey showed, Kinzer said, that girls who are not athletic had the greatest need.

The Peaceful Playgrounds kit contained enough games to fill the Wal-Mart Super-center parking lot, Kinzer said, so they chose the ones that would best fill their students’ needs.

A parent donated the concrete and poured a 40-foot by 100-foot slab beyond the basketball courts.

Then the committee had to wash the concrete slab, which was another big project. Getting water to the space meant attaching 300 feet of hose and running it out from the building.

Twenty-five volunteers painted during four or five separate sessions during the hottest part of the summer, Kinzer said.

“You painted until you fell over,” Meshell said.

The volunteers used an oil-based paint and stencils that came with the playground design kit. Even Bellview’s new principal, Shelly Perry, and her husband volunteered to help.

There are also number grids and alphabet grids. Students can jump from number to number to memorize their address or phone numbers. Or they can toss a bean bag onto the letters that spell out their names. A multi-purpose square can be used for traditional games like four square or four corners, as well as for the dozens of games described in the instruction book. There’s also a large multi-purpose circle, ringed by more shapes with numbers inside. It can be used for dodge ball, cake walks and much more.

While parents painted  the playground designs outside, schools officials were inside trying to figure out how to add more physical education time to each student’s schedule. The P.E. teacher couldn’t add more students without taking two classes at a time and that is too many students, Meshell said.The Peaceful Playground offered a perfect solution.

Aide Luly Kinney has been studying the book and learning all the games as well as the principles of Peaceful Playgrounds. She’ll supervise the area and teach the children how to use the shapes and numbers on the slab. With Kinney’s instruction, some of the students’ recess time will count as physical education.

There’s more to come from Bellview’s playground committee. Over the summer, a Boy Scout working on his Eagle award, Josh Sederholm, organized his troop to refurbish soccer goals and pull bagfuls of weeds out of the gravel track.

The PTA bought trees and benches to go under them last year. Next the committee would like to see an outdoor pavilion to provide some much-needed shade on the playground.

If the team of parents, school officials and city keeps working together, there’s no stopping them.