A recent study done by Stephen Leff and J. Munro, PhD “Bully-Proofing Playgrounds During School Recess” illustrates how to reduce playground bullying during recess. Their study sought to discover what strategies would promote cooperative play and positive social interaction among children during recess. It was carried out in an urban elementary school in Philadelphia, with approximately 750 students in kindergarten-4th grade.
Bullying can be defined as teasing, hitting, pushing, or threatening. The victims of bullying can suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. The students who are the perpetrators of these acts tend to have behavior problems, anger management issues, and perform poorly academically.
The Co-Founder of the educational toy company Click-A-Brick endorses the study. “Schools need to everything they can to prevent aggression and bullying,” Smith said. “They should be safe havens for our kids. A place where they can feel free to be themselves. How can they grow emotionally and socially if they feel threatened or scared? At Click-A-Brick we are advocates for bully free schools and programs.”
The researchers allied themselves with school administrators, teachers, parents, and playground supervisors to understand how they could improve children’s playground behaviors. The main objective was to create a recess program where children could play together in a cooperative manner and reduce the levels of aggression and rough physical play.
The authors proposed to re-design school playgrounds, empower playground supervisors to guide children’s play behaviors, and help educators implement age- and gender-appropriate activities for children during school recess.
The playground was repainted and divided into five sections - each one differentiated by age and gender-appropriate activities. An assembly was conducted to inform students of the new programs and expectations to be had of them. Training was provided to monitors on how to supervise the playground and encourage structured activities.
The research team returned after a year to determine whether the recess program procedures were successful. The research team observed 32 separate recess periods. The results of the study showed that providing structured activities increased the rates of cooperative play among children. There was also less physical and rough play.
Georg de Gorostiza, the Co-Founder of Click-A-Brick, commends the results of the study. “Children shouldn’t be afraid of recess,” de Gorostiza said. “It should be a place full of play. A place where they can learn how to behave in social situations, how to deal with conflict, and most important of all, develop empathy with their peers. Bullying and aggression simply don’t have a place there.”
This study is described in more detail in Leff, Costigan, & Power.
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