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Peace on the playground

Washington elementary’s new program teaches ABCs – and cooperation

DIXON – Playtime will be a little more peaceful on the Washington School playground this year.

The school’s kindergarten and first-grade classes received a $5,000 grant from the Dixon Public Schools Foundation to incorporate the colorful Peaceful Playground program, which uses educational games that also teach cooperation and conflict resolution. 

After more than 2 months of rain delays, faculty and volunteers spent Tuesday stenciling and painting number and alphabet grids, hopscotch and other games on what once was blank blacktop behind the school. Tetherball poles also will be installed.

“The point of the stencils is to teach them different games and activities that they can do for cooperative play,” Washington social worker Theresa Sholders said.

“It focuses on giving kids activities to do during recess, so they are happy and busy playing,” first-grade teacher Jenny Brown said. “It gives them support for conflict resolution as well.”

Washington, and the district’s other schools, use the Positive Behavior In Schools program, which is designed to keep young students engaged in activities and reward positive behavior.

Pam Maas, a recently retired social worker at Washington, knew how the Peaceful Playground could strengthen the PBIS program, and spearheaded the effort to bring it to the school she worked at for 30 years.

Washington staff had a training seminar Feb. 19 to learn what games can be played on which grids, then the school formed a design team to decide which ones Washington would use.

Balls are utilized for some of the games, and they also are provided as part of the program.

The playground already had a dome-shaped monkey bars and two funnel ball poles in which children throw balls into a compartment and they come out through numbered holes. It will be open during the summer, but the new equipment that goes with the grids will be available only during recess.

“What we’re trying to do is to create a playground where they are going to learn shapes, they’re going to learn letters, they’re going to learn their numbers, and they’re going to do it in different ways,” Maas said. “It works on not only their cognitive skills with the ABCs and the numbers, but also their gross motor skills and fine motor skills. That’s real important for kids.

“This is an opportunity to learn not only to take turns, to share, and play the games, but they can also learn to negotiate conflict.”

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