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Equipping The School Ground

In many places it probably is not to be expected in the beginning that the school directors will purchase the equipment for the school yard out of the school funds, though this should usually be asked and may often be granted. In many districts the funds are now adequate for such purchase, and if the school officers are sympathetic and the law permits, there is no reason why it should not be done. However, in many cases the whole situation will rest with the teacher. If the necessary equipment is to be had, it must be she that develops the means to secure it. She need not be discouraged on this account. It is quite as well to begin with a little and let it grow from year to year. Children will thus learn the proper use of each new piece of apparatus as it is installed and will really enjoy it more. According to the report of Superintendent Kern of Winnebago County, Illinois, forty-seven country schools in Winnebago County had school socials in 1912, the net proceeds of which were $1638.27, or a little less than $35 for each school. It is not difficult to do this in many communities, and this is enough to begin with. It is believed that these socials will also be good for the school in creating loyalty on the part of the children and bringing the school and the community together. The country has too few social occasions, and almost any sort of an entertainment will be a good thing and will strengthen the hold of the teacher on the community. The experience of Winnebago County can be duplicated in many other counties in this country. if the superintendent and the teachers are willing to take the initiative. If the teacher does not wish to undertake this, oft-times enough can be secured to make a beginning by taking up a collection. Or perhaps a mothers' club or a school improvement association can be interested to take the responsibility off the teacher's hands, if for any reason this should be desirable.


At the present time there are few country schools that have any equipment in their yards. Not much is necessary and this should not be expensive, as much, if not all, of it can be made by some ingenious member of the community or by the children themselves. It would be well, however, to have in every school yard a bin of good building sand. This bin may well be about six by eight feet in size, the dimensions to vary with the number of small children. It should be made of strong boards or planks ten inches to a foot high. It does not require a bottom, but should have a molding board or seat running around the top eight or ten inches wide. It should be placed under a tree or in the lee of the building, where, it will have shade in the warm weather, and should be in some quiet part of the ground so as to attract the little children away from the area where the active games of the larger children are going on. It is good to have the school directors furnish the sand bin, but it is still better to have the children do it. The older boys should be urged to do the work as a form of social service to the little people. A couple of ingenious boys would take pride in it and would often be able to furnish the material from old lumber lying about the farm. In many sections they would also be able to dig and draw the sand. The cost of the sand bin where the children do as much of the work as possible should not exceed two dollars and may be practically nil.


There should be perhaps half a dozen swings. The frame-work should not be more than ten feet high, made of gas pipe or of cedar or Georgia pine. It should be set about three feet and a half in concrete. If a strip of tin or gas pipe is put along the top of the wooden framework, the frame will last longer. About three feet and a half of space should be allowed for each swing. Six swings may well be put up in one section. This frame should be well braced from the sides, and the supporting screw hooks should be farther apart than the width of the swing seats, in order that they may not wabble. The swing hooks and the eyebolts that go through the seat should be of hardened steel. A steel thimble should protect the rope where it goes through the eyebolt and over the swing hook. If there is no one who can splice the rope, however, it may be merely run through the swing board and up to the hook on the other side, or it may be run through the board and knots tied at the bottom. The swing should hang about sixteen inches from the ground, and the children should be encouraged to swing themselves. The framework should be placed parallel with the fence and in some retired corner of the ground where there will be little danger of the children being struck in passing by. A high framework is not recommended, because the large boys and girls are apt to preempt such swings to the exclusion of small ones, and the swing is dangerous in direct proportion to its height. The chief danger is not that children will fall out, but that others passing by will be struck by the edge of the swing board. If two children are standing up in a swing and swinging high, so as to give the swing great momentum, a Swings parallel with the fence, as they should be little child that is struck in the temple or side of the head will certainly be seriously hurt and may be killed. Girls should not be allowed to stand up in swings in the school yard, as the swinging makes their dresses fly up. If swings are left up at night, they are apt to attract the children of the neighborhood and they may become a nuisance. The swing frame should be painted each year. While swings are always appreciated by children, they are not necessary in the equipment of the rural school. Swings offer a purely individualistic type of play of which the children have or may have an abundance at home. The school is the only opportunity they have for social play, and such play they greatly need. Social and competitive games are incomparably more valuable to country children than swings. In equipping the yard, if the funds are limited, the swings may well be left to the second year. It is not safe to take any chances on the swings. They must be well made by some responsible person.


The athletic slide is a piece of apparatus that is much loved by small children. Fifteen or twenty will use one almost continuously and with great unanimity. They are apt to quarrel over the swings, because they all want to use them at the same time, but there is a natural rotation in office on the slide that prevents quarrels or hard feelings. There are very few accidents in its use, and I am of the opinion that it does not do nearly so much damage to the clothes as some imagine. The child is apt to be squirming about on his seat a good share of the time in any case, and the seat is not nearly so smooth as the slide. A sixteen-foot slide that is very satisfactory can be purchased from Marshall, Field and Company of Chicago for thirty dollars.


At the end of the swing frame or by itself should be a horizontal bar. The ground underneath this should be excavated and filled in with soft sand. The bar is needed for chinning contests for the athletic badge, etc. The horizontal bar is one of the most-used pieces of apparatus in every out-door gymnasium. It gives a fine opportunity to do stunts and to show off. A horizontal bar, however, that is placed over a brick pavement or hard ground either will not be used much or is likely to result in broken arms. A gas pipe or a fork handle run through two augur holes in upright posts will do, if nothing better can be obtained. It would be well to have three bars placed about five and a half feet, six feet, and six and a half feet from the ground. The posts should be not more than five or six feet apart.


Along by the fence it would be well to lay off a hundred-yard running track about ten or twelve feet wide, unless a smooth and unfrequented country road furnishes a satisfactory substitute. All children like to run races, and it is quite as good sport for the boy or girl of ten as it is for the college athlete. I am inclined to think, in fact, that the interest in running comes to a climax about ten and declines from then on. In the city playgrounds they are now putting in regular cinder tracks for the small people. This is not necessary in the country, as a dirt track is nearly as good, if the soil is satisfactory. The track should be stripped of sod, dragged, and then rolled lightly, so as to make it springy. It may not be feasible to fix a hundred-yard running track twelve feet wide, but it is certainly easy and worth while to make a short track sixty or seventy feet long and five or six feet wide, with a jumping pit at the end. If the running track is made, the jumping pit should be placed at the end of it. A take-off board should be set in the earth, level with the surface. The earth should be dug out for about fifteen feet and some six inches of sand or other soft material filled in. The children should purchase or make a pair of jumping standards. These will require a substantial base and two uprights marked with feet and inches, and a series of holes for each inch, through which a peg can be run for supporting a string or crossbar. Generally, children enjoy the high jump more than the broad jump. All of this work can be done by the children except, possibly, making the jumping standards, and even this is not very difficult for an ingenious boy. Work of this sort develops a natural interest which makes it the best sort of manual training. So far as it is done by the child for the school and the other children, it is a practical training in social service as well.


There are few country schools that have a yard large enough for baseball, and there are also few at present that have enough older boys to play the game if there were an abundance of space. There are, however, some such schools, and the boys usually want to play if there are only five or six on a side. The village schools and new consolidated schools oftentimes have an abundance of children for three or four nines, and some of them have plenty of room also. Wherever possible the baseball diamond should be so laid out that it can be used by the older boys and young men in the evening and on Saturday afternoons. The diamond is simply a square ninety feet on a side, set on one corner. It is well to outline the bases and the diamond with a pick, as this will keep the distances fixed and the game in one place. Meal sacks filled with sand and sewed up for bases are less productive of bruises and profanity than the stone that is gathered from the wayside. The boys will make the diamond without much urging. If a regular league ball is used, this will cost a dollar and a quarter, and a couple of bats will cost fifty cents to a dollar more.

The playground-baseball diamond is thirty-five feet on a side. It may well be outlined in the same way as the baseball diamond. The ball will cost a dollar, and four clubs may be purchased for fifty cents, as an expensive club is not required.


The volley-ball court should be twenty-five by fifty or thirty-five by seventy feet in size. It may well be outlined with a pick in the same way as the ball diamonds. Two posts, two-by-fours or young saplings, should be so set as to be eight feet above the ground, and to divide the ground into two square courts when the net is up. Near the top of each post should be a strong hook to hold the net. The ball will cost from one to five dollars, and the net will cost a dollar to two dollars more. These supplies can be obtained from A. G. Spalding and Company, 124 Nassau Street, New York, from the mail-order houses, or ordered through local dealers.


A tether-ball pole is sold by the athletic supply houses, but any pole or straight sapling will do. It should be thirteen feet long and two and a half to three inches in diameter at the top. This should be set three feet in the ground, leaving ten feet above the surface. Six feet from the ground a black band should be painted on the pole or a cloth tied around it. There should be a screw eye to hold the cord, screwed in the pole four inches from the top. In this should be tied the tether-ball cord, so that the ball will hang within two and a half feet of the ground. Around the pole a circle six feet in diameter should be broadly outlined with a pick, and a straight line twenty feet in length should be made to bisect the pole and circle. The local stores probably will not carry tether balls, and it will be necessary to order them else where. They will cost from six to eight dollars a dozen, probably seventy-five cents for one. A very satisfactory tennis racket for tether ball can be obtained for a dollar and a half, or four rackets for six dollars. If the rackets are furnished by the children and the pole is cut from a neighboring wood, the tether-ball equipment will cost only seventy-five cents for the ball. It is not wise to leave out the ring, as is often done, because, as the children become excited in the game, they tend to step close to the pole and strike it with their rackets. This usually breaks the racket and makes the game expensive. If they have to stay outside the circle they cannot strike the pole so easily. A ball will not last more than a month if there is much play, and two or, better, half a dozen balls should be purchased at one time.


It will be well to provide the girls with an eight-mallet croquet set. This will cost from seventy-five cents to one dollar and a half. The girls will set this out themselves, and will take care of it if they are made to feel that croquet balls and mallets are not intended to play hockey with, and that the set belongs to them. Hollow pegs can be secured which may be driven into the ground and left there. The wickets are inserted in these pegs whenever the set is to be used. This keeps the court marked off permanently and reduces to a minimum the work and time taken to prepare for play. This is especially helpful where the ground is hard.


Basket ball will require two straight posts fifteen or sixteen feet long. These had best be of cedar or Georgia pine, and should be four or six inches square, set four feet in concrete ; but any straight tree of similar dimensions will do, and the concrete may be omitted, though of course the posts will not last as long. A flat shield of matched or, at least, tight-fitting boards or of fine-meshed strong wire 4 by 6 feet in size should be nailed to the pole, so that the shield will come to the top. The long way of the shield should be vertical to the length of the pole. In the middle of this shield, so that it will be ten feet from the ground (perhaps a foot lower if the children are young), should be placed the baskets. These can be purchased from a supply house for $2.75, or a barrel hoop will do if there is nothing better available. These posts should then be planted seventy feet apart on a piece of level land, with the shields and baskets facing each other. The court 35 feet by 70 feet should be outlined with a pick. The ball will cost five or six dollars, according to the one that is purchased.


Very likely to most rural teachers the program thus far outlined seems ambitious, perhaps impossible of realization. It does certainly require that the teacher should have the cooperation of the children, and to some extent the sympathy of the neighborhood as well. But if she wishes the cooperation of the children, what better method can there be than to do something in which they are interested ? It must be re-membered too that it is quite as important and legitimate a part of modern education for the children to learn to work for the common welfare as it is to study arithmetic or geography ; that most of the things that they will do will be the best kind of manual training, and may properly be done in school time, if the school directors are in sympathy with the work. If a teacher will raise twenty dollars by a school social or entertainment, she may well purchase with this money the following things :

One volley ball and net $ 6.00
Two indoor baseballs 2.00
Four bats .50
One croquet set 1.50
One sand bin 2.00
Total $12.00

This would quadruple the play facilities of many a rural school and would leave eight dollars to replenish supplies when worn out or to cover any unforeseen expense. If the cheaper volley ball is used, with a rope instead of a net, as is done in Germany, the volley-ball equipment will cost only a little over a dollar. The second year, perhaps, tether ball might be added, and so this process might be continued until the yard is equipped. A closet or cabinet, in which to store the supplies, should be provided. By this time a new spirit of cooperation in the school and a new sympathy in the neighborhood will undoubtedly have been developed. This surely should not seem a difficult or unpleasant task for any capable teacher.

There is sometimes a feeling on the part of the school authorities that the children should furnish their own base-balls, volley balls, etc. ; but it must be remembered that a baseball is not for one child to play with, but for eighteen children to play with, and if a boy brings his ball to school he has it batted to pieces by the other children. From the very nature of the case all such supplies should be communal property. It is impossible to have adequate play at any school unless the school will furnish the necessary equipment.

( Originally Published 1914 )

Play And Recreation:
Play In The Home And Its Environs

Play In The Home

Play In The Dooryard Of The Farm Home

Some Experiences That Every Country Boy Should Have

The Improvement Of The School Ground

Equipping The School Ground

Organized Play In The School Yard

School Exhibitions And Corn Clubs

Recreation In The Rural Community

The Play Festival And Pageant In The Open Country

Read More Articles About: Play And Recreation

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