Alice Smith Elementary School has added a colorful new component to its playground, but it’s not all just fun and games. Thanks to an HEF grant, donated paint, and the creative thinking of Smith’s guidance counselor Kristin Lutz, the playground surface is home to a wide variety of new painted stencils.
The stencils are the physical aspect of a ‘Peaceful Playground’ program. Painted this summer by PTO volunteers, the stencils may look simple enough, but each provides a host of interesting games specifically designed to teach kids cooperative play. And it keeps them busy. “Recess can be an exciting time for kids. It’s a chance during the day to let out pent-up energy, but it’s not structured like phy ed,” says Lutz.
‘Peaceful Playgrounds’ is much more than a four square tournament. For each stencil, the program includes instructions for a myriad of games for a wide range of developmental levels. And little do the kids know, Smith staff members have also been subtly teaching them conflict resolution. Lutz explains, “As the students learn more sophisticated games, we’re helping them to problem-solve solutions when conflicts arise.” And part of that conflict has traditionally been caused by too much waiting time for the limited options available.
The new well-marked activities increase motivation for kids to enter into an activity and become engaged in purposeful play, which cuts down on playground confrontations. Lutz adds, “We now have so many fun options for the kids that everyone gets plenty of chances to play. Some of the games require a whole bunch of kids to participate, so it makes it easier to join in, and easier to be inclusive, even among kids who don’t typically hang out together.”
The game markings are not only aesthetically appealing, but allow for academic learning opportunities as well. One is a traditional telephone number pad where kids jump on their phone numbers or math equations– easier said than done! Another is a stencil of alphabet letters for stomping out names or messages. There’s even a section for younger kids to play games to help them identify colors.
‘Peaceful Playgrounds’ is a program that serves 4 million students annually in over 8,000 schools across the nation. It received the National School Innovation Award for creating healthier school environments for students, staff and faculty, and the program has been shown to improve conflict resolution. It also gets high marks for violence prevention results.
Amazing what can be done with creativity and a little bit of paint.
Alice Smith Elementary