Danielle Curtis

School recess activities

School recess activities at Nottingham Elementary

Photo by : William Wrobel  The Telegraph

When one player made a mistake and wanted a “do-over,” others reminded him that was against the rules, and he quietly, if somewhat unhappily, returned to playing.

And in another area of the Hudson school’s playground, students picked teams for a kickball game, choosing players based on the color of their shirts, not lining them up and choosing their friends or favorite players.

Standing in the middle of it all was Assistant Principal Michael McNelis, who smiled as he watched the students playing, saying recess has seen some important changes this year.

“The kids are really, really excited about all of this,” he said.

The changes are all part of the school’s new “Peaceful Playground,” a national program that uses organized recess activities, with consistent rules, to teach students conflict resolution, increase involvement among students, and reduce playground accidents.

The program provides schools with stencils, to clearly mark hopscotch squares, four-square courts, and various other playtime tools on the playground’s surface.

Teachers educate students about the various games they can play and help them understand the rules of the games: that any student who wants to be involved is allowed to be, that teams are picked by standing on colored circles on the pavement or by the color of players’ shirts, and that there are no “do-overs.”

While the elementary school never had severe discipline issues at recess, McNelis said there were always the typical issues of students being excluded or conflicts over the rules of a game.

Recess monitors were often busy resolving these issues and had less time to stand back and observe the safety of students.

This year, however, McNelis said that with students and teachers embracing the new recess rules, more students are learning to resolve their own issues. And with more concrete rules for each game available, fewer conflicts are happening in the first place, he said.

Principal Peter Durso said this improvement in conflict resolution means more students are able to keep playing during recess. Before, he said, if a recess monitor had to solve a disagreement, a student might be required to sit out of a game to cool off.

The elementary school’s PTO purchased the Peaceful Playground program for the school, using fundraising money to bring the education materials, playground stencils and even balls and other toys to the school.

Facilities workers painted the activity areas and other items onto the former parking lot this summer.

Students at the school seemed just as excited about the change as administrators and teachers.

Last week, as the bell rang sending students from class to recess, dozens ran out of the school, heading straight to buckets of kickballs and hula hoops and then to the Peaceful Playground area behind the school.

Fourth-graders Devyn Lonardo, Ryan Chaisson, and Ethan Olson all were playing four-square with a group of their classmates. They said they love the new space that gives them organized games to play.

“There’s a lot more stuff to play with now,” Devyn said. “Everyone is always really excited to play.”

The students gushed about their new flag football equipment and said that more students are interested in playing games at recess because of all the new options.

At one point in their four-square match, a debate broke out about whether one of the boys had been knocked out of the game.

After a minute of arguing over whether the player should be allowed another chance, one student spoke up, reminding his friends that the Peaceful Playground rules do not allow “do-overs.” The disagreement ended and the students went back to playing.

While it is this kind of situation that the Peaceful Playground program aims to resolve, physical education teacher Kyle Tave said there are other benefits.

One of the most important, he said, is that the inclusion of organized games, not just sports, has led to more students being active at recess.

Too often in past years, Tave said, older students would often sit around and talk at recess and not get the daily activity they need.

“Now, they get out there and you can actually hear them asking other kids during the day to play with them at recess,” he said. “It allows them to socialize with kids that they otherwise might not normally play with.”

Tave said he uses the Peaceful Playground in his classes, as well, and makes sure to use the rules included with the program with his students.

“The kids seems to really, really like it,” he said.

McNelis said the changes coming to the elementary school’s playground are not over. There are still more activity areas to be painted behind the school this spring and summer, and a tetherball game also may be added to the field behind the school.

He said he hopes these additions will help to create a culture of peaceful playing among students.

“They’re gaining life skills that we hope they’ll carry over into other parts of their lives, whether they’re in play or just in discussions with others,” McNelis said.

The Telegraph Newspaper