Schools

Learning to Play on the Playground

Like most Kindergarteners, Isabel Massung has had enough of inside recess. Even though she said she likes playing housekeeping and with the animals, she is ready to get outside and play with her friends. Thanks to an idea from Kris Kennedy, Middletown Prairie’s Music, Movement, and Media teacher, Isabel may be learning some new games to play this spring during outside recess.

Kennedy said when she first saw the amount of equipment on and the size of the playground at Middletown Prairie Elementary, she knew she had some homework to do. She did her research and found the idea of a playground map.

“We had a lot of equipment and the kids didn’t know how to use it,” she said. “We are actually teaching them how to play” on it.

The reasoning behind the playground map is simple. Kennedy and Physical Therapist Kathryn Rose made a map of the entire playground with the equipment. Kennedy then took the classes out during their PE time and told them they could play with whatever they wanted, but they had to try at least 2 things. Classes came inside and Kennedy gave them a map and instructed the students to circle what they played with or put an X through what they didn’t play with. This gave her an idea of what equipment was being used the most by which children. She shared the results with parents and with classroom teachers.

“The first time was just practice. The second time we did it, we found out some kids just sat. Some kids ran all over and tried a lot of things. Some kids only did the swings,” Kennedy recalled.

“At recess, when the whole school was outside, we had parent volunteers and our PTs and OTs out there encouraging kids to try other things,” Kennedy said, and teaching them to use the equipment.

“90 percent of the kids do just fine on the playground, and we don’t worry about them,” Kennedy said, adding the grownups at the school worked with those kids who did not know how to use the equipment either because they were not physically or socially able to do so.

Teachers and parent volunteers helped the children learn to hang and drop off the monkey bars. Children learned how to roll down a hill. “Parent volunteers showed the kids how to do each thing on the playground,” Kennedy said, adding she also made a safety video for students too. “We showed them the video on how to safely use the equipment.”

“There are more areas for the kids to be on this playground,” said Kennedy. “Everyone knows what to do now. It looks more organized. It looks like kids are playing.”

Assuming the weather is good after Spring Break, Kennedy said she plans on taking the classes out once again and having them map the playground one more time. She also will teach students how to jump rope and re-teach hopscotch. “We are doing a jumping unit in PE, so jumping rope and hopscotch at recess go well with that,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said one piece of equipment that took a lot of instruction was the monkey bars. She said over the summer, the school will reconfigure the steps to the monkey bars because it is too long of a reach for kindergarteners to stand on the top step and grab the first bar. This was learned after observing the children try to play on the monkey bars without success.

Not all students use the equipment. Some kids enjoy playing and talking with their friends.

Isabel said she likes playing superheroes with her friends during outside recess. But she also likes the swings and the slides too.

Now that the weather is turning warmer, hopefully there will be more days where Isabel can get outside with her friends and play during recess.  Mrs. Kennedy will make sure they know plenty of games to make it fun.

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