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THE REORGANIZED SCHOOL PLAYGROUND.
"Fifty dollars fine for anyone found trespassing on this yard after school hours." The foregoing sign was on the side of a school building in a middle-sized city of southern Arkansas, but the sign is not unique in that locality, and it represents an attitude of mind that has been very nearly universal. The school yard has been one of the least utilized of our educational resources. Surfaced with a view to his convenience and used mostly in accordance with his desires, it has practically belonged to the janitor. I do not know that there are any cases where he has used it to raise potatoes and the family vegetables, but he might nearly as well have done so for any advantage that has come to the school or the children. Often the pupils have not been allowed to come to school until 15 or 20 minutes before 9 and have been required to leave the yard immediately after dismissal. The gates, if there were any, have been closed and locked during the summer time. Under the circumstances there is little wonder that school yards have been generally inadequate in size and often atrocious in condition.
In the past 10 years the play movement has burst upon us and has brought with it an illumination as to the educational value of play. The old-time school yard, with its limited space and its restrictive traditions, is entirely unsuited to the new uses demanded by the new ideals, and there is going on everywhere a reconstruction of theory and practice to meet the new requirements. As in all reconstruction periods, however, the facilities and needs are out of harmony, though many cities, with an imperfect understanding of the problems involved, are attempting to improve conditions according to their lights.
The new activities for the school require, in the first place, a larger yard; secondly, a yard which is in condition to be used—which ia not often the case at present; and, thirdly, a yard with a certain amount of equipment for play and some one in charge. The yard is nearly as important as the classroom in the conduct of the modern school, for it must furnish a place for gardening, for open-air classes, for organized play and physical training both during the school day and after school, on Saturdays, and during the summer vacation. These new uses are creating a new condition, which warrants far greater expenditure and care than the old-time yard ever received.
It is unfortunate that any school needs to be built in the city, because it is usually impossible to get enough land for baseball, football, and the other games that the children should play. The past 10 years, however, have seen the invention or introduction of several new games, such as volley ball, basket ball, indoor baseball, and tether ball, which are more economical of space than any games that we have formerly had and which help to relieve the almost impossible condition of a few years ago. It is possible now on a block of ground, if the block is of fair size and the school is not too large, to have a good deal of play that is worth while.
SIZE OF THE SCHOOL YARD.
Our schools have had very inadequate yards in the past, and many of the largest city schools are so hemmed in by surrounding buildings that the yards can be enlarged only by buying highly expensive property. Nevertheless, there is a very strong sentiment all over the country for larger grounds, and yards are being enlarged in many cities wherever there is an opportunity to purchase adjoining pieces of land at prices that are not prohibitive. Cities are often paying as much as $10,000 or more per acre for such land. The movement is noticeable also in the country, but much less so. Country communities are very conservative. Grounds can usually be purchased for country schools at the rate of $100 per acre or less, but it is doubtful if 1 per cent of them have playgrounds that are as much as an acre in extent.
It is impossible to set any arbitrary standard for the size of a school ground in the country. It certainly should be large enough for baseball, as it ought not to be necessary to do most of the school play in the neighbors' fields, as is so often the case at present. Very often a neighborhood park and picnic ground should be made at the school also. This should always be done, I am inclined to believe, if the site offers the facilities, and there is no better place in the neighborhood. The minimum size for the ground of a country school should be 2 acres. Nothing less than this will do for baseball, and if the tract is to be used by the older people evenings and Saturdays, as it ought to be, nothing less than 3 acres will be adequate. Ten acres will not be too much for the general athletic field and picnic place for the district. There is no advantage in the large yard, however, unless the yard is kept mowed, so that it can be used. City children need a good-sized school yard because there is no other place to play. Country children need a large yard because at home there is no one to play with, except in the simplest games for little children. The State boards of education in Pennsylvania and Virginia are dealing wisely with this problem by requiring the plans of all buildings and grounds to be submitted to the State board for approval and not approving any plans for new schools that do not provide for adequate playgrounds.
A city high school requires at least 10 acres of ground in order to carry on the games that its students should play, because nearly all of these games require a considerable area, and the growing conception is that every student, not a few athletic specialists, should take part. Girls need a separate field from boys and they should have every encouragement in their play. High schools are probably getting two or three times as much ground as they did 10 years ago, but it is practically impossible in most cases to buy 10 acres of ground in the central portion of a well-built-up city for a high-schqpl playground. This problem can be dealt with only in three ways: First, by replacing the space-requiring games such as baseball and football by space-economizing games, such as indoor baseball, volley ball, and basket ball; second, by using the school grounds at different times for different classes all through the school day; or third, by purchasing a good-sized field at some distance from the school. The last is such a poor alternative that it seems scarcely worth considering.
Various standards have been proposed for the city elementary school. The board of education of England requires 30 square feet of playground for each child. This would place a child every 5 feet over the school yard. A year ago the State of Washington passed a bill requiring 100 square feet, but this was vetoed by the governor. Even this would have been inadequate. In a good many of the old schools of New York there is not room enough in the external playground for half of the children to stand in the closest possible order. Where the land on which a school building is erected costs two or three hundred thousand dollars it is not to be expected that much more ground will be secured than the bare needs of light and fire protection demand. But for most of the new schools, in the smaller cities at least, there is at present a workable standard, namely, one block for each school. This is quite generally adopted in the Middle West and the South at present. In the city of Little Rock, Ark., there is not a school for white children in the city that has not a full block to itself. There are not more than one or two schools that have not a full block in Pueblo, Colo. There are 16 school grounds of more than 1 acre in Dallas, Tex., and the last five grounds secured in Houston contain from 3 to 8 acres each. In San Angelo, Tex., every school but one has two blocks at least, and two have about 10 acres of play space. The first school built in Gary, Ind., had 2 acres of playground, the second had 4, the third 11, and a lot recently purchased contains 20 acres.
I think we may well put it down as a minimum requirement in most cities that each school should have one block of ground. It is 7871°—No. 40 2
believed that new schools will generally adopt such a standard, and sooner or later the yards of many of the older schools will be enlarged to conform to it. Two years ago the city of Houston, Tex., secured a bond issue of $500,000 for enlarging the yards of several of its old schools. The city of Galveston has just voted a bond issue of $100,000 for the same purpose. There are many other cities that should do this at once, and an increasing number of cities may be expected to do so.
The blocks of many cities are 2 acres or less in size, while those in other cities, as in Salt Lake City for instance, may be as much as 10 acres in size. It can be said in general that a block of 2 acres or less puts all play at a disadvantage. The lots are so short that the back yards are very small, and there is no space for the small children to play. Such blocks are scarcely large enough for baseball when they are vacant, and they are not large enough for school playgrounds even when the school has an entire block. Schools vary from the 4-room school to the 30 or 40 room city school. For play purposes the advantage is with the larger school in the matter of supervision, because it is too expensive to furnish supervision to the play at the school with a small number of pupils; but if the school is large and the block is small, there will be an obvious lack of agreement between them. Probably a 10 or 12 room school is about as large as can well be accommodated on the average city block.
It is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, under existing conditions to secure a full block of ground for a school. There are few entire blocks within the city without buildings, but sites should be selected ahead as far as possible, anticipating the city's growth, and no new addition should be allowed to come into the city without setting aside a block for a school. Owners generally ask more than the land is worth for school sites, and it is often difficult for the school board to get enough money to purchase a block. They usually hold that they have no right to condemn land for a playground, and often it can be secured in no other way. In most cases all that school boards really need is a modern interpretation of the school laws. They are usually given the right " to condemn land for school purposes," and the organization of play has become nearly as much a "school purpose" as arithmetic. In some cases it may be necessary to have the school laws changed, but usually that will not be difficult in the light of present interest in play. It surely is possible in most places to get land enough to carry on the activities of a modern school.
In hilly cities school sites are often selected that are very uneven. Such sites are usually cheaper in the beginning, but are nearly always dearer in the end than sites that are nearly level. A rounded hill offers a conspicuous position for a school building. Yet it is much less suitable for the location of a school than a store. No merchant