New playground program should benefit students

Miami County Republic Newspaper
Beaver Dam, Wisc.

Written by Brian McCauley
Friday, 15 October 2010 08:00

Two of the biggest issues facing youths these days are childhood obesity and bullying, and Cottonwood Elementary School in Paola is about to institute a program that could help tackle both problems.

Thanks to an impressive stretch of state teacher of the year finalists, Cottonwood Elementary had enough funds to pay for a new program, and they chose Peaceful Playgrounds. The program began in California, but it has spread to schools across the country.

For their money, Cottonwood staff members got a lot of new game equipment, material to paint the playground with decorative patterns and instructions on how to implement the program.

First, teachers and volunteers painted the asphalt on the playground using bright colors and distinct shapes. Now, they are working on teaching the students in physical education classes how to play a variety of different games at recess.

Instead of sticking with the same old games, the students will now have a variety of exercise opportunities. They also have been taught how to resolve conflicts peacefully. If there is a dispute during the game, students are encouraged to use the rock, paper, scissors game to determine an outcome.

Trojan Elementary in Osawatomie kicked off the program last year, and Principal Jeff White said office referrals are already down about 80 percent.

Teachers are also encouraged not to take away recess as a punishment, emphasizing the importance of daily exercise. Cottonwood Principal Janis Grandon said teachers will have to find new forms of punishment, perhaps by taking away a student’s choice of game to play.

As generations evolve, how children play seems to evolve as well. White said it’s hard for him to watch children today show each other how to play sports like badminton on a video game system. He remembers playing those games for real for hours on end out in the fresh air.

Peaceful Playgrounds will give students a variety of game options, which will stimulate their imaginations, and it will keep them active. It also will help them learn to respect each other and follow the rules of the game.

With a focus on activity and a more structured environment, recess at Cottonwood likely will be a lot healthier for students in the future.