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THE NEWER USES OF THE SCHOOL YARD.
Since the school yards of the country are very inadequate, the problem is to get a maximum of use out of a minimum of space, so as to make the small yard meet the needs of the children. One of the rules of efficiency experts is to use the plant as much as possible. There is very little available play space in most of our cities, either for children or for adults. If the school yard is to have its maximum use and efficiency, it should be used from 8 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock in the evening all through the pleasant weather, a possible efficiency of about 14 hours a day. As opposed to this, in many school systems the children are not allowed to come to school until just before 9; they are sent home at noon and as soon as school is dismissed for the day, making a minimum efficiency of half an hour to one hour's use each school day, with no use at all on Saturdays or during the vacations. The only school system that I know that is approaching the maximum use is the one at Gary, Ind. In Gary there is a play teacher in the yard or the gymnasium from 8 o'clock until 5 every day and from 7 till 9.30 each evening, thus giving a daily use of the playground for 104, hours each day for six days a week and all through the year. It is probable that the next 10 years will see the use of all suitable schoolyards quadrupled by use after school, on Saturdays, and through the summer vacation, and by the introduction of play into the curriculum.
PLAY IN THE CURRICULUM.
If small school yards are to meet the needs of play of large numbers of children, the classes must use the yards at different times. Supt. Wirt has worked out at Gary an admirable system to meet this condition. There are no recesses in Gary, but of the first five grades each has two play periods of 45 minutes in the yard every day. This is under the direction of a regular physical instructor, and it is devoted to organized games. Gary has a 6-hour school day, from 8.45 to 12 and from 1.15 to 4. Of this, 14, hours are spent in the playground or gymnasium during the first five or six years. After that there is one period of physical training a day until the eleventh grade is reached, but in the remainder of the course there is no physical training or organized play except after school and in the evenings. We have undoubtedly been inverting the natural place of physical training, for in most cases it first makes its appearance in the high school, and for many students it first becomes compulsory after entering college. Yet the first period is the physical period of life. This is the time of the greatest motor restlessness, of the greatest interest in physical achievements. The paramount question for the small child is not arithmetic, but physical health. It is impossible for him to attend long at a time to any mental task. His exertions need to be broken by frequent periods of play and relaxation. His working hours should naturally be much shorter than those of more mature students. If he is ever to develop into the perfect physical type, he must get most of the training during the time of growth, when his muscles and his whole body are plastic. Intellectual training may well go on to the sixtieth or seventieth year, and spiritual training and growth until death, but physical strength is usually perfected before the twentyfifth year and often by the twentieth year. All of these arrows point in the same direction, and they all indicate that physical training should be the major subject, if not the paramount subject, in the training of little children, and that the time might well be decreased as the maturity of the body is approached.
FORMING A HABIT OF FLAT.
One of the best things about the system of physical education in the typical English preparatory and public school is that the students are supposed to get out and play every afternoon, as soon as their lessons are over. These exercises are practically required up to the sixth form in the public school, and by that time the habit has been so well established that the student continues to play during his university course and probably during the rest of his life, from the force of this early custom.
Leisure is increasing all over the world to-day, and with great rapidity in the United States. Every year a number of new States and cities pass the eight-hour law for public work. Every year certain trades secure a reduction in working hours, and the age at which children may go to work is raised in several States; the working hours of women are steadily reduced. In the aggregate this means the gain of millions of hours of leisure to the people of the country every year, and it is becoming important for the school to train for leisure, as well as to train for work. The school must give the boy and girl games that may be played throughout life, and it must establish play habits which will lead to the continuance of play. Supt. Wirt says he has taken the "street and alley time" of the children for organized play. In the old days on the farm the time after school was required for doing chores, but there is no use for this time in the city. The children left to themselves play little. This may seem a very radical statement, but I have gone over cities repeatedly with notebook in hand and watched what the children were doing. I have found nearly 90 per cent of loafing to 10 per cent of play. It is doubtful, if the credits and debits of this time were balanced, that anything on the positive side could be shown resulting from it. To devote these hours at all of our schools to organized play would be almost a pure gain in itself and would also tend to establish a habit that would be of great value all through life. It would be better for us all, and we should probably accomplish more, if we could spend the hours from 4 or 5 until supper in play every afternoon.
Play is the only available system of physical education in the majority of cases. Our schools are not provided with gymnasiums as a rule, and little children do not usually take kindly to gymnastics. It may be said that it is unnecessary to make any formal provision for play, as we can merely keep them out of school and let them play. The answer is that play of small groups of little children left to themselves runs mostly to the dramatic types. It is not vigorous enough to give physical training. If they are turned out to play in the school yards by themselves, it will be found in general that not more than 10 or 15 per cent of them are playing at any sort of vigorous game. The play must be organized, if it is to secure results. In the preparatory schools of England there is about two and one-half hours of required play immediately after school every day. In Germany there are three periods of required physical training a week in every grade of the elementary school. In all grades a part of this time is devoted to play and in the lower grades nearly all of it is often so devoted. Besides this, many schools have what is known as the compulsory-play afternoon, one afternoon a week. In many of our private schools in the country, such as Groton, Lawrenceville, and St. Pauls, play is required in the fall and spring and gymnastics in the winter. In most of our city school systems we have had the curious anomaly of beginning physical training in the high school and requiring gymnastics indoors, while giving no credit for exercise in the form of play in the yard, which, besides exercise, offers open air, relief and recreation from study, the training of the judgment and the will, and the good fellowship and social adaptation of team games. If there is any justification for gymnastics in the high school, then organized play in the elementary school requires no justification, and the school can afford to furnish the time for it. There are school systems that are now giving to play from one to five periods a week in the lower grades, but in no case, with the possible exception of Gary, is the time sufficient.
A DIRECTOR OF PHYSICAL TRAINING.
Supt. Wirt manages to get along without a director of physical training for the city by employing experts in each ground. This is possible because Supt. Wirt is himself an expert, but for most cities the absolute prerequisite of a play system that is worth while in connection with the schools is that the city have or employ a competent director of physical training. This person must plan what is to be done, arrange tournaments and contests, teach folk dances, arrange exhibitions, gala days, and play festivals. As he will deal largely with untrained people, he must also train his teachers. The physical director should have his long vacation in the winter time in most cases and have charge of the playgrounds all through the summer. The position deserves an adequate salary, and a capable man should be secured. If his salary is the same as that of the principal of the high school it will not be far wrong.
A TEACHER AT EACH GROUND.
There will be no play on the school grounds that is worth while unless there is a teacher or physical director in charge. This teacher should have charge after school until dark; after supper until about 10, if the ground is lighted; on Saturday mornings at least; and all through the summer. Where the ground is kept open at night, it is highly desirable that a special playground teacher be employed, but if the playground is open only after school and on Saturday mornings, regular teachers from the schools may be utilized for the work, receiving from $15 to $25 per month additional for it. During the summer time full time and full pay are, of course, needed.
LIGHTING THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND.
It is not the school children alone who need to play. In some ways the problem of the working boys and girls is more acute than that of the school children. Most of the former are engaged in monotonous tasks, and the spirit of youth recoils from them at night, and they go to the dance hall, the saloon, the picture show, or worse places. They must have their recreation at night, because they are working during the day. For two or three hundred dollars, it is possible to light a school playground so that it can be used for basket ball, volley ball, and indoor baseball at night, and also for folk dancing and various forms of athletics. If the school has a swimming pool and gymnasium and auditorium, these will furnish to all the young people nearly the same facilities as the Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. possess, and will make an attractive center for the young life of each community. More and more such ground should attract business men and their wives to come out after supper and play with their children the games that the playground offers. I recently witnessed a game of soccer between two teams of adults from the evening school, which took place at night on one of the playgrounds of Gary, Ind. Mr. Wirt has shown that the number using the gymnasiums and playgrounds of the Emerson School is nearly equal to the numbers using the 11 gymnasiums and playgrounds of the South Park system of Chicago; and the cost of installation in Gary is about one-twentieth of the cost in Chicago, and the cost of maintenance is about one-sixth as much.
PLANNING THE SCHOOL GROUND.
Very often not more than half of the possible efficiency of a school playground is secured, because the ground has not been properly planned. If the boys wish to play basket ball, they put up the equipment anywhere that there is room for it, regardless of whether it is the proper place for the game or not. If a basket-ball court is placed in the middle of half an acre of ground, it takes practically the whole space, though it does not need more than a fifth or a sixth of it. Games should be assigned to spaces that they will fit snugly, so that they will not interfere with other games in other spaces. Indoor baseball, volley ball, and basket ball should be provided with permanent locations, as this is the only way in which the maximum efficiency of a school yard can be secured.
Indoor baseball.—Every school ground of any size should have at least two indoor baseball diamords, one for the girls and one for the boys. The regulation diamond is 35 feet square, though the 27-foot diamond is better for small children. This should be laid out permanently, and the places for the bases marked. Bases should be made of sacks filled with sand. The 17-inch ball should be used in the smaller grounds, and the diamond should be so placed that the ball will not be batted over the fence or against the school building.
Volley ball.—Volley ball is the best game for school yards in general, because it takes very little space, and nearly all the children can play. It is the natural corrective of nearly all the bad postures of the schoolroom. The equipment costs very little. From two to four teams should be organized from each of the upper classes, and they might well have volley ball as a period of physical training in the regular school time at least once a week.
Tether ball.—Tether ball is another game that requires little space, is very vigorous, and can be played in almost any school yard. Directions for this game and for volley ball can be secured from the Spalding Athletic Library for 10 cents. Both sets of rules are in the same book. The lines around and bisecting the pole are best put in with brick.
Skating.—In the northern part of the country it is sometimes well to flood a part of the yard in winter for skating. All that is necessary in cold weather is to make a low embankment at the edge, so that the water will not run off, and to turn on the school hose.
EQUIPMENT FOR GAMES.
When it is determined to have a play ground in a school yard, the first thing to be provided should be the apparatus for playing games. This should consist of about 1 dozen indoor baseballs, three or four volley balls, one or two basket balls, and half a dozen tether balls, ball