Peaceful Playground

These are the 5 principles of Peaceful Playground.

Principle #1

Well-marked game lines and boundaries are a must. They serve as a motivating reminder to the students that those marks represent a fun activity. No one has to waste time asking themselves, "What shall we do now?" especially if there is a variety of games marked all around the playground, both on the blacktop and in the grassy areas. With so many choices, children have fewer conflicts and are spread more evenly in the playing area.  It means that children wait in line less and play more. When they know they will be getting their turn quickly, there is less reason to argue over rules. Also the colorful shapes provide a more appealing, almost amusement park, look to the surroundings. There is the expense of the paint and labor to consider. In most schools where the Peaceful Playgrounds Program has been used, community members and parent groups such as PTA, PTO, high school leadership groups, and Boy/Girl Scout troops have donated paint and labor. They work together with district maintenance crews to organize "painting parties" as a community service project. Blueprints for the entire layout are available in the companion Primary Blueprint. A complete set of rules for each game can be found in the Activities Guide.

Principle #2

The toughest part of playground supervision is solving disputes between angry participants. The program philosophy is that a consistent set of rules eliminates the playground arguments, which can be attributed to rule infractions. The rules aren't difficult, but they must be introduced by teachers and inter-actively taught to students through instruction, use, and modeling. Each teacher makes it a point to cover the rules of each game and enforces them to the letter. There can be no exceptions, e.g. do-overs," "freebies," "seconds," "no-takes," etc. The playground supervisors should also take part in the instruction of the rules and the importance of consistency. Substitute supervisors should be given an easy-to read copy of the rules. lf Mrs. Smith's students play by the same set of tetherball rules as Mr. Franco's class, the students shouldn't have any argument about rules. An in-service at the beginning of school can prepare the staff for their role in teaching the playground game rules and insure consistency. lIt has to be a team effort-, and when implemented properly, ultimately everybody wins.

Principle #3

Appropriate social interaction requires that students are taught skills for dealing with playground problems and disagreements. Ideally, if a problem occurs, a child doesn't have to go to an adult to resolve it. Teaching students how to solve problems can be em6edded in many curricular units and part of a school's social skills curriculum. The Peaceful Playground Program is designed to help youngsters develop negotiating and communication skills that will serve them in adulthood. Rather than having school yard supervisors intercede in playground conflicts, pupils learn to handle the matters themselves' For most situations students know that there are three options to resolve conflicts, WALK, TALK, PAPER-SCISSORS-ROCK. Walk away from the problem;  2) Talk together with whom they are having a problem until they reach an agreement; or  3) Use Paper, Scissors, Rock Game. These options work well with disputes over rule infractions.

lf the strife is the result of name calling, teasing or hitting, the pupils involved are asked to leave their play area and reminded that they must "work out" their disagreement before returning to the activity.

Instruction in conflict resolution should outline three steps:

  1. Discussion of who started the conflict.
  2. Clarify the incident.
  3. End with an apology.

Resolution usually comes quickly because students are eager to get back to their games. Having children resolve their own problems frees supervisors to do what they do best... look after the safety of all children on the playground.

Principle #4 

Most educators agree that books, paper and pencils are necessary equipment for successful academic instruction. The playground, too, requires appropriate equipment for successful game participation. A central check-out system with one person in charge of equipment check-out and check-in is the most desirable . Distributing equipment  from each classroom is not as effective and results in more loss. A central person can monitor the check-out and retrieval as well as the inventory and maintenance of equipment.

An air pump should be in the equipment room so balls can be properly inflated and quickly distributed. A general rule of thumb is that there should be a minimum of one piece of equipment for every ten students on the playground at any given time. The life expectancy of a playground ball, if it is used correctly, is one year, and Therefore, should be budgeted for and replaced accordingly.

Principle #5 

It is especially important that the Peaceful Playgrounds Program is implemented school-wide to insure success. Each staff member should understand and support the principles outlined. Not only should teachers hold students responsible for playing by a consistent set of rules, they also need to hold students accountable for handling their playground problems by choosing from one of the three options. If a staff member starts settling conflicts for students, soon students believe their role in handling conflicts is limited or nonexistent, so they fall back into the habit of whining and tattling to the supervisors. Being able to play cooperatively empowers children and teaches them to work cooperatively in the classroom. In an age when violence in schools is too often on the front page of newspapers administrators need to look at new strategies for more peaceful playgrounds. This program works to head off problems early. It also instills student responsibility and conflict resolution skills that transcend the playground to the classroom, the home, and the community.