Written by Megan Solberg
Aariz, age 10, cannot wait for recess. Recess breaks are the best part of the school day because he gets to do the things he loves with his friends: play kickball, run around the track, or toss the Frisbee. Aariz is an active kid who enjoys being outdoors and playing games, and recess gives him a necessary break from the classroom so that he can return to his studies energized and refreshed, ready to learn about the Metis, Indigenous history, and Louis Riel in Social Studies— his favourite subject.
Through Saskatchewan Blue Cross Recess Guardians, Aariz has now developed leadership skills and tools that help him teach classmates and younger students to enjoy recess the way he does. Saskatchewan Blue Cross Recess Guardians is an engaging initiative which aims to teach play and to bring physical activity back into recess for Kindergarten to Grade 5 students. Older students, known as Guardians of Play, are provided with leadership training that teaches them how to lead games in inclusive ways so that all students will feel comfortable participating.
Aariz became a Guardian of Play in June 2019. As a Guardian of Play, Aariz learned how to share his enthusiasm for activity and learning in healthy, respectful, and inclusive ways with younger kids who might not be initially inclined to take part in these activities.
This program was developed in response to an increasingly prevalent problem on the playground: kids are spending more time on their phones or iPads rather than interacting with one another and playing games. Research has shown that this trend has increased bullying and substantially contributed to unhealthy levels of inactivity for students on the playground. By re-introducing play into recess, teaching leadership skills, and emphasizing the importance of inclusion, Recess Guardians aims to combat this trend.
Kerrie Thomas, an elementary school teacher for the past 22 years, has already seen the impact the Recess Guardians initiative has made in the classroom.
“Kids today don’t play a lot of basic games like we used to play. They have so much fun playing these ‘new’ games and have grown in their ability to cooperate and get along with others.” She then adds, “[The Recess Guardians program] is very well-thought out. The games are taught in a way that students need to think about not only how to play them, but how to teach them and how to plan for the game. The yellow shirts given to the students were exciting for the kids, and made them stand out on the playground. Younger kids knew they could join in when they saw the shirts.”
Donning his yellow Guardian of Play shirt, Aariz has learned many games that he now loves. His favourite, though, is Animal Kingdom, a game similar to the recess classic Tag, except kids get to choose an animal to imitate as they run around the playground. Aariz likes Animal Kingdom “because people get to choose their animals and when they get caught, they stand like a tree. Also, you get to run.”
Despite how much fun he had learning these games, Aariz enthusiastically claims that the true best part of Saskatchewan Blue Cross Recess Guardians is getting the opportunity to teach other students how to play.
“I like teaching kids the rules, playing a practice round and then doing the real round. It taught me how to play the game, and about getting other kids to play a game, then teaching them the game.” During recess now, Aariz adds, “I go to little kids and play with them. I teach them games, kind of like we did with Recess Guardians.”
From a teacher’s perspective, Kerrie agrees that this emphasis on leadership and inclusion is the most rewarding outcome of the Saskatchewan Blue Cross Recess Guardians program.
“This program has allowed my students to see themselves as role models out on the playground. They see themselves as mentors, helpers, and leaders. For some students, it takes courage to go and ask kids to play. It has brought many kids out of their shells.”
K+S Potash Canada proudly partners with Recess Guardians so they can continue to do what they do best: encourage leadership, inclusion, and healthy activity in kids on the playground to counter an ever-increasing reliance on handheld technology amongst young people.