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Learning while playing
School: Santa Fe Elementary School offers playground alternatives.
Jumping, skipping and hopping on the school blacktop is making a comeback at Santa Fe Elementary School where school officials are implementing “Peaceful Playground” — a structured play area that incorporates language arts, geography and mathematics into a play program.
“It’s already generating a lot of interest. No one has told them what to do and already they are figuring it out before the adults,” administrative intern Isabel Lopez said. “Usually recess is very unstructured. There is not a lot of play area for the kids.”
As the recess bell rang Wednesday morning, 10-year-old Edgar Emigdio was seen crisscrossing his feet attempting to step into painted footprints. Other students hopped and skipped along painted lines, circles and squares.
“If you keep the kids involved, they are less likely to get into trouble,” Lopez said. “At any given time we can have 250 kids on the playground so it is really important that they have things to concentrate on.”
Prior to the new addition, the pupils were limited to two four-square games, 10 basketball courts and a backboard.
“The school’s student council wanted to take on the project when we received it two months ago, but they couldn’t because of the paint,” Lopez said. “The paint is nontoxic concrete paint but it has to be done by adults and we just didn’t have the labor for it.”
That is when six members from Porterville College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society stepped in.
The society’s president Megan Wiechmann and five other volunteers spent Tuesday laying out the blueprints — pre-fabricated playground stencils — of play activities and of a 20-foot-by-25-foot map of the United States.
“It was a big stencil with lots of little holes that we had to paint over with white paint,” Jose Lopez said. “The East Coast was the hardest. There are so many tiny states.”
Once the stencil was removed, the white dots were connected with black lines, and on Wednesday, the states were painted. Fifth-grader Laura Torres pointed to Montana on the map.
“Montana holds the U.S. record for the coldest winter ever in the United States, negative 70 degrees,” Torres said. “It is also known for hunting.”
Her classroom was excited when they heard about the map, she said.
“Since fifth grade deals with U.S. history, it fits right into the curriculum,” teacher J.R. Ortiz said. “We’re learning our state reports right now. This is a great addition to our playground. It is a great learning experience.”
With summer school approaching, the program will continue to benefit pupils, Lopez said.
“We have 620 kids signed up for summer school,” Lopez said. “This will reinforce geography. Especially since these are the at-risk kids. They need a lot of reinforcement. These are the kids that don’t get it all with instruction alone, they need the hands-on experience offered by the alphabet and number grids.”
-- Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1047 or email@example.com.