Safer Playgrounds: Assessing Layout, Supervision, and Staff Training
Recess can provide valuable learning opportunities. Taking short breaks throughout the school day appears to help some children pay attention in the classroom (Pellegrini and Bjorklund, 1996). And play can be a powerful predictor of children’s competence (Pellegrini, 1995). Experience on the playground may promote social competence by giving students opportunities to practice new skills, negotiate and problem-solve, and interact with a wide range of other children (Leff, Power, Costigan, and Manz, 2003).
Although there are many benefits, playgrounds may also pose risks to the physical and emotional well-being of children (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1997). Most injuries in elementary school occur on the playground (Bruya and Wood, 1998). In addition, some children find recess unsafe and frightening (Astor, Meyer, and Pitner, 2001), perhaps because bullying and other forms of aggression often occur on the playground (Craig, Pepler, and Atlas, 2000; Olweus, 1993). When playground aggression goes unchecked, students may learn that fighting, name-calling, excluding others, and other antisocial behaviors “work.”
It is important to assess the structure and procedures of playgrounds and their supervision regularly. It is also beneficial to evaluate systems of staff communication and follow-through related to playground incidents. Finally, it is helpful to consider how playgrounds can support a school’s broader goals for student behavior and a safe learning environment.
The Physical Environment
Evaluating the physical environment of playground areas is an important step in improving school safety. First, conduct a visual survey of the playground to evaluate the extent to which these common hazards are present:
- Gaps in the fence surrounding the playground.
- Access points from the play area directly to a street.
- Low-hanging branches or shrubs that prevent or limit adults’ ability to see children, especially around the edges of the playground.
- Debris on the playground, such as broken glass.
- Barriers to clear line-of-sight supervision, such as concrete walls, other school buildings, or trees.
- Large, unsupervised play areas, such as fields.
- Dangerous play equipment or ground surfacing material (See Handbook for Public Playground Safety listed in references for detailed guidelines).
Reprinted with the permission of the Committee for Children. © 2007 Committee for Children.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Bullying in Schools
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights
- First Grade Sight Words List