A Peaceful Playground. Isn't that the dream.......

An updated playground is more than play space
Boeckman - Fitness and creative play are emphasized with the school's improvements
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Special to The Oregonian

A peaceful playground -- isn't that the dream of all students, parents and educators? Where recess is a time of socialization, fresh air and physical activity, rather than a period marked by conflict and bullying.

That's the concept behind the new playground at Wilsonville's Boeckman Creek Primary School.

The improvement project began in November 2006 when several parents indicated an interest in updating the playground. Ten parents and four staff members volunteered to form a committee and established the goal of a space with activities that would develop fitness and allow for cooperative, imaginative play.

As they researched physical and social education and development, they were drawn to Peaceful Playgrounds, a program developed by a former teacher and elementary school principal in 1992 to address discipline problems and advance social and motor skills.

Peaceful Playgrounds takes a resource most playgrounds already have -- space -- and transforms blacktops and fields into play areas with activities and games. With more choices, children are more likely to engage in physical activity.

More than 8,000 schools nationwide use Peaceful Playgrounds. It has been recognized by groups including the National School Safety Center for increasing physical activity and decreasing bullying and injuries.

Boeckman Creek's new playground is being phased in as funds become available. A PTA auction last year raised $14,000, and at last fall's PTA-sponsored Fun Run, students helped raise $24,000.

Over the summer, games such as four square, hopscotch and alphabet leapfrog were stenciled onto the blacktop. New equipment, including 10 swings, two tire swings, a wall ball area and a remodeled fitness area, arrived during winter break.

More games and activities will be introduced this spring when painting weather arrives and the school can round up parent and community volunteers.

Morris said the new playground offers the students many more choices for activity. As a result "they are spending time in play and learning to cooperate with others," she said. "Each day is another opportunity to develop not only physically, but also as the person they want to be with a strong moral character."

Deets said the staff saw fewer "behavior discipline referrals" during recess last month, the first month the new playground has really been up and running.

He also said instructional assistants have noticed fewer students wandering around with "nothing to do."

"Many students who were frequently engaged in loosely structured chase games have found new activities to participate in," Deets said. "All in all, we see the kids being happier, with more smiles, as they enjoy the new playground."