When it comes to education, kids need a strong foundation in the basics — reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, and, of course, recess! Experts agree that in order for kids’ brains to process information most efficiently, they need brain breaks between academics.
“Research proves kids need to be physically active – whether that’s PE or recess – so they can focus better when they come back into the classroom,” said Chuck Silzly, principal at Owyhee Elementary School.
Physical play is also how kids practice the skills they need to navigate the world, including cooperation, decision-making, creativity and social skills.
To accommodate these needs, the district has been upgrading playgrounds across the district to replace aging equipment and reduce the chance of injury, allow for more inclusive designs that make play accessible to all children regardless of ability, allow for more children to play at once and better encourage creativity.
At about $150,000 per playground plus another $100,000 for maintenance, the district has relied on supplemental levy funds to achieve this goal. The proposed levy will replace the 20-year-old equipment at Owyhee Elementary, the most recent in a multi-year cycle to update all of the district’s elementary schools.
Silzly said a new playground can’t be built soon enough.
“Now that kindergarten is all day, when our primary grades are on the playground (K-2), it’s really crowded. We need a playground that will accommodate all of our littles and provide more equipment for a school of our size. And we need more adaptive equipment that will give us the ability to bring wheelchairs to specific areas.”
He also hopes a new playground will include more swings – the most popular option for the older students in grades 4-5. Currently the school has had to institute an alternate-days schedule for when which grades get to use the swings. “We just don’t have enough,” he said.
And playgrounds don’t just serve the students enrolled at that school. The equipment is available to the public when school is not in session, and many families take advantage of both the equipment and the grassy fields attached.
“We use the playground almost every day,” said Ashlee Hutchison, who lives just behind the playground unveiled this past August at Willow Creek Elementary. “After picking up my two kids from school I let them run off their energy at the playground for a half hour to two hours every day.
Hutchinson said her kids appreciate the new equipment, which feels safer and is more spacious for play. “They can get away from people and find places to hide. They can not only use the equipment, but also the different spaces and aspects,” she said.
Hutchinson often meets a friend there, and together they watch five kids ages 6-12 slide, swing, and play creatively in imaginary castles, forts and haunted houses. “Their play almost always has a storyline,” she said. “It gives them a chance to be themselves and use their brains. They can imagine themselves being whatever they want to be that day.”
To learn more about the levy, visit http://nampa.school/levy.