More monkeying around


From The Optimist Magazine

Summer 2014

Bullrush used to be a popular chasing game at schools in New Zealand. It starts with a “chaser,” one child who tries to tackle other children as they run to the other side of a field. But at some point, it got banned at schools. The reason: Teachers were concerned they would be held liable if children were hurt. But Swanson Primary School, in Auckland, recently decided to let children play bullrush again. In fact, they decided to remove all playground rules: Children are now allowed to climb trees, ride skateboards and play any game they want during recess.

The school recently reported that this new playground amnesty has caused a decline in instances of bullying and injuries, as well as an increase in students’ concentration during class. Principal Bruce McLachlan talked about his decision: “We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Swanson Primary wasn’t the only New Zealand school to relax the rules on the playground. Together with eight other schools, it participated in a 2011 study by Otago University and Auckland University of Technology aimed at encouraging active play and reducing obesity. Swanson took the experiment a step further, though, and abandoned the rules completely. The school and the researchers said they were surprised by the results in this particular school. Bullrush and activities like tree climbing kept the children so occupied that the special “time-out” area for unruly children was no longer needed. The university study may be over, but Swanson Primary has no intention of bringing back playground rules, ever. | Elleke Bal

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