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Learning To Play, An Important Lesson For Schools


What is the most basic thing that kids should learn in school? How to read? How to do math? What about — how to play?

In a time of extremely tight budgets, the Oregon school district with one of the  tightest budgets of all, may shell out for a program at the playground.

Rob Manning saw that program in action in the Reynolds school district in east Multnomah County.


You know it’s gotten bad for recess when teachers have to ban the most common game around. That was the situation for kids at Hartley Elementary, like 3rd grader, Audrey.

Audrey: “Well, we didn’t get to play ‘Tag’ at all.”

Audrey’s principal and the enforcer of the “no-Tag” rule is Terri King.

Terri King: “Tag, there’s always a fine line, where kids come across and someone gets pushed too hard, and someone thinks it was on purpose, and then you have a fight. So, we just kind of banned tag.”

King credits a program called “Sports for Kids” for helping bring “Tag” back to Hartley. Coaches with the program taught kids how to use a very light “butterfly touch” to avoid knocking each other over.

Elliot Langford: “Recess is like the final frontier of school. They kind of can do whatever they want, in a way - and that’s not always a good thing.”

That’s Sports for Kids coach, Elliot Langford. He’s quick with a high-five and insists he plays with the kids, and doesn’t supervise them. But he’s responsible for bringing some order to recess at Hartley.

Elliot Langford: “You know, kids don’t really know all the rules, and kids don’t really know the right way to play with each other until they get taught. So we need to show them how to play, and how to play the right way, and when they play the right way, it’s really fun.”

A few simple rules apply to all the games Sports 4 Kids runs: don’t worry about “winning” and “losing,” be active, and have options for different games.

Sports for Kids coaches ran a free weeklong demonstration in three Portland-area districts, in hopes they will spend $23,000 per school for a year-long program.

That comes at a time when the Reynolds district has compiled a list of $10 million in potential program cuts. School board members may finalize that list later this week.

Hartley principal Terri King supports funding the program. She says it wouldn't take away from the focus on classroom basics, like math and reading.

Terri King: “While that can be our focus and that’s an important focus for us, the other part of the school day is also important. So I think that the Sports 4 Kids ties in with our philosophy, to create a learning environment that goes all day long for the kids, and makes the learning part much easier for them, because they do have this outlet here.”

King says she’s already looking for grants or private fundraising, if there’s not public money to pay for the recess program.

If the money doesn’t come together, at least students, like 3rd grader, Abby, learned a few games, last week.

Abby: “I think it would be fun to keep playing ‘em, for other people to learn how to play, and then to keep going, keep the game going on.”

So, who's up for tag?

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