Girls playing recess games at South Redford Elementary School.
Keep children busy doing interesting things and you’ll keep them out of trouble.
That truism is the idea behind Peaceful Playgrounds, a program out of California that changes schoolyard blacktops into colorful games s and new playground equipment.
Next fall, all four South Redford elementary schools — Jane Addams, Fisher, Jefferson and Vandenberg — will be transformed in bright red, blue, yellow and green colors and dozens of activities.
The new playgrounds began with a generous donation from Eleanor Sheposh, a longtime Thurston High School science teacher who retired earlier this year. Superintendent Linda Hicks told the elementary principals to “dream big” and come up with something special.
“We said what could we get that would be good for all four schools and it was Mr. (Brian) Galdes at Fisher who came across the Peaceful Playgrounds, so we started pulling it together,” said Syndee Malek, principal at Vandenberg.
The donation from Sheposh and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, for paint and brushes, got the project rolling.
Peaceful Playgrounds provides schools with a kit for making blacktop school yards into productive play areas during recess.
The kit contains stencils for game layouts; rules for dozens of games as traditional as four square and hopscotch and as new as world geography; playground equipment including all the balls, hoops, beanbags and other elements to play the games; and even a conflict resolution guide.
“The concept is for peaceful playgrounds,” said Malek. “If the kids are busy, they have things to do, they understand the games, they’re playing by the rules, you’re going to have less behavior problems on the playground. In three weeks with just the pieces we have painted, we’ve seen a lot of that decline.”
The Vandenberg school yard is a now a lively place with children shooting baskets, bouncing balls in four and two square contests, playing shuffleboard, swinging Hula Hoops on their hips and tossing beanbags.