Monday, September 10, 2007

Playground Helps to Resolve Conflict


By Alexa Jenner, ajenner@libertysuburban.com
Downers Grove Reporter

Downers Grove, IL -
Photo by Ron Koopmann
With their new “Peaceful Playground,” students at Whittier School have learned how to resolve thier own conflicts. Nisha Albert (left) and Haley Reid, both of Downers Grove, use the strategy of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to settle a conflict Wednesday.

In an effort to curtail problems at recess, Whittier School has opened the new year with a “Peaceful Playground.”

Researching for a project for a bully prevention class last summer, Whittier’s physical education teacher Jeanne Smith came across the Peaceful Playgrounds Program. Problems during recess was a continuous issue at Whittier, and Smith felt the program could be the solution.

With a Peaceful Playground, the blacktop is filled with colorful multi-use squares, hopscotch and various games for different age groups. The playground also establishes a set of rules for students to follow, helping them resolve conflicts on their own.

After attending a workshop on Peaceful Playgrounds in November, Smith secured $5,900 in funding from the PTA’s playground committee. Staff training at Whittier began in June and three groups — rules, procedures and safety, and interventions — were formed..

In August, staff gathered again compiling a first draft of rules and suggestions for the playground. Although some fine-tuning remains, students already are embracing the play area.

“The Peaceful Playground empowers children to have fast effective ways to resolve issues that come up normally during play,” said Principal Linda Welch. “It’s exciting for them and it’s exciting for us.”

An assembly was held on the first day of school to talk about the Peaceful Playground and how students will be responsible for resolving their own conflicts. As part of the program, the three strategies include walk, talk, or rock — students can walk away from a dispute, talk it out or settle it by playing “rock, paper, scissors.

Having a consistent set of rules allows the students to enjoy their free time rather than waste it fighting. The intermediate grades have their own area where basketball hoops are now marked for shooting games, lines are established for races and tetherball poles sit waiting for students to enjoy them. The younger grades have number and alphabet grids, which help them with their spelling or learning their phone numbers.

Smith started teaching the rules of different games this week in gym and plans on teaching more games to various classes in an effort to reduce long lines.