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Altara students test indoor playground equipment on loan from county

Feb 01, 2018 03:28PM ● Published by Julie Slama

Altara third-grader Ryker Hurst tries out the inflatable bowling as part of the new “recess rentals,” indoor playground equipment that schools and groups can check out for free from Salt Lake County. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

School children at Altara won’t miss recess because an assignment isn’t done. And they won’t miss it if the winter air quality is determined unhealthy.

Altara Principal Nicole Svee-Magann is adamant about physical activity time for her students.

“It’s important for them to be active and moving throughout the day,” she said. “We need to keep getting oxygen to their brain. They’re much more attentive after they exercise.”

So she jumped when the opportunity came for third-graders to try out new “recess rentals,” or indoor playground equipment, which schools and groups can check out for free from Salt Lake County.

“This would fit into our Playworks (structured recess program) time or even some in the classroom when we need to keep the students inside,” she said Dec. 15, just days after the first winter inversion resulted in keeping children inside because of poor air quality.

In Sandy, the level of PM2.5 air pollutants spiked at 55.5 ug/m3, well above good air quality goal of below 12.0 ug/m3. 

Salt Lake County Health Educator Jessica Maple said that after attending a conference on learning how to increase physical activity, the staff brainstormed and came up with the opportunity for schools, typically elementary and middle school, and groups to check out playground equipment for free. 

The equipment available includes four spikeball sets, six scooter boards, four mini Frisbee golf sets, inflatable bowling sets, inflatable basketball standards, bean bags, jump ropes, hula hoops, soccer balls and indoor goals, Skip-Its, Wii box sets and more.

“They don’t have to be used only on inversion days,” Maple said. “Teachers can use the equipment for classroom activities as brain breaks. We have booklets of games to give teachers to learn how to keep students active. A lot of research shows that with physical activity, students learn and retain more and as a result, their math and reading scores are better.”

However, the students were too busy trying out the equipment to learn about its benefits.

Third-grader Alyssa Bernard said with the indoor soccer ball and goal, they can practice not only shooting skills, but also catching.

“If we can’t go outside to play, we still can inside and so I can keep practicing catching in the goal,” she said.

Her classmate, Davin Leslie, said he was practicing shooting the ball.

“I’m using different strategies — hard, soft, in the air or on the ground — to get the ball in (the goal),” Davin said.

Third-grader Ryker Hurst said he liked trying bowling to hit the inflatable pins.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought,” he said. “The balls aren’t that heavy so you have to throw harder to knock them down.”

Third-grade teacher Clifford Lowe played alongside the students.

“I think this is great for them,” he said. “If they’re cooped up in a room all day, they go stir crazy and have to get rid of energy. I’ve had them do jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, but this will give them a change. A lot of the kids are having fun with Skip-Its and Frisbee golf. What I’m already seeing is a chance for them to set their own individual goals to get better at skills with the equipment. And they’re learning to work together and take turns, which is building a sense of community. There’s a lot of good that can come from this program.” 

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