By Jane Long
Taylorville – Recess – it’s supposed to provide young students with a time to release pent up energy after sitting at their desks, a time to make friends and have fun while exercising.
But too many times today, recess can develop into a time of conflict and confrontation because there are many bored students located in a relatively small area. Too many times the playground becomes an area of intense competition, bullying and other conflicts that students carry back into the classroom
Members of the North Elementary School PTA want to provide a playground that is more conducive to fun, a place where students go to enjoy recess time and there fellow students.
Last Saturday about 17 parents and students spent the day painting and diagramming on the playground at the school so that a new program called Peaceful Playgrounds can be implemented later this month when school begins.
“It seemed like we were involved in a lot of incidences of boredom which then led to problems on the playground.” Said North Principal Susan Morrison. “Peaceful Playgrounds is a way for schools to organize and manage their playgrounds. The idea for the program actually came from a couple of parents.”
Morrison and members of the PTA investigated the program, and Morrison talked to administrators who had placed the program in practice at their schools.
The program is currently implemented in more that 8,000 schools nationwide receiving accolades from the American Association for Leisure and Recreation and Family Circle Magazine.
When the work is complete, 29 games and activity diagrams will be found on the 70′ x 140′ playground for students in grades K-3 located south of the school
“There are a lot of colors and shapes and many different games for students to enjoy during recess.” said Ellen DeSart, PTA organizer of the Peaceful Playgrounds project at the school. “These areas will also help the younger students with the letters of the alphabet and math skills. The playground is an important part of the school and we want students to have productive time while they have fun here.”
Another area for older students are grades four and five will be completed later on the north side of the school.
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.
National statistics show that only 15 to 20 percent of students take part in the game play, such as basketball while most others engage in free play, where conflict and even injuries may occur. Boredom and overcrowding often become the causes of conflict and injury on the playground.
Peaceful Playgrounds uses colored game markings which are age-appropriate and designed to increase motor skills. The color adds to the appeal while allowing opportunities for academic learning as well.
With more to do on the playground, students are more evenly distributed throughout the playing area. More children are engaged in healthy, often educational, purposeful play.
Peaceful Playgrounds was developed in 1978 by Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer, a teacher who holds a master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis on children’s motor development and a doctorate in educational leadership.
“We hope this program will provide a way for the students to have more fun on the playground.” added Morrison. “With more choices during recess, students are more likely to enjoy their time and make it productive.”
But just as important as the opportunity for more fun is the component that teaches the students a way to themselves develop and use resolution skills to reduce discipline problems.
The program and its philosophy will be explained to teachers during the first in-service day, according to Morrison, and playground supervisors will receive training about the program. Students will learn one set of rules for the games and activities which apply to the whole school.
The North School PTA purchased a kit with blueprints, stencils, games and other components that were used in developing the Peaceful Playgrounds at the school.