Arlington second graders build new way to play at school

Posted 12/20/23

Second graders at Arlington Elementary took the opportunity to make a lasting and colorful impact on their school’s culture this autumn.

As part of a project-based learning initiative, …

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Arlington second graders build new way to play at school


Second graders at Arlington Elementary took the opportunity to make a lasting and colorful impact on their school’s culture this autumn.

As part of a project-based learning initiative, second grade teacher Toni Clifford, with the help of multi-language learner teacher Patricia Ruder led the students of Clifford’s class in a hands on, student-led project to revitalize the blacktop play area in back of Arlington Elementary, where all the kids of the school spend their recess time.

“We wanted them to identify a problem in their community, find ways to solve it, work on implementing it, and see that it came to fruition,” Ruder said. “That they were able to actually make a difference. And that was what was really powerful because it wasn't something that affected just their class. They surveyed the school, they found out what the needs were within our school. And then we were able to go from there.”

Students worked directly from conception to execution. They discussed ways the space could be better used. They petitioned the Feinstein Foundation, which Arlington is affiliated with as a title one school, for funding for play equipment such as balls and hoola hoops. They even commissioned artist Kevin Lamaruex, a vice-principal in the North Providence school district, to paint the school yard with space for games and activities. The project was a daily part of the students’ life for weeks.

“I used my social studies block, which is about a half an hour per day,” Clifford said. “So at the end of the day, usually around 2:30 or so we would kind of just dive into it and pick up where we left off.”

A major part of the project was collaboration with Arlington fifth graders. The second graders and fifth graders researched games and activities with Arlington fifth graders and combined their findings into a booklet which was made available to the entire school.

“Now not only do we have to have the equipment, they have to know what to do with that equipment,” Ruder said. “And now all the whole school has access to this. So when they want to play, whether or not they're the second graders or any grade. They have the materials, they have the blacktop painted, and they have a list of games that they can play.”

The book includes classics such as hopscotch and four-square, with newer entries such as ‘alligator swamp’ and ‘bird’s nest.’ The project has turned the second graders into leaders on the blacktop. Clifford said. “There's a kindergartener who walks by every day, and she says, I like your bird's nest game, guys, are you going to bring out the hoops for bird’s nest? They know that they can come to the second graders.”

This project is one example of a push towards project based learning happening throughout the school district. Educators at Cranston have been participating in PBL training for several years, which is how Ruder and Clifford first chose to bring this project to Arlington. Now that the precedent has been set, future Arlington classes will soon be following suit, bringing their own ideas into the school and larger community.

Both educators were impressed at the lasting impact the project had on the community. Even months after completion, the students remember and think about it often. Clifford noted how much the second graders have taken ownership of their handiwork. Even with the project complete, they’re determined to see it maintained. “God forbid,” she said, “those bins are messy and they aren't organized. The kids want to go and fix it up. They're like ‘those big kids, they didn't put the balls back in!’ and they want to go and clean it up, fix it. We had a missing soccer ball, and they're like, ‘Oh, my goodness, you know, the soccer ball. We have to find the soccer ball, what are we going to do?’”

A city playground sits next to Arlington but is not used during recess due to its size and often its state of cleanliness. The playground was not part of a recent resolution by the city council to provide ARPA funds to revitalize city playgrounds, due in part to Arlington’s imminent dissolution as a school. The students of Arlington Elementary will be attending Gladstone Elementary in its new building once construction is complete. The Arlington building was until recently in consideration for the location of the community center soon to be constructed in Cranston, but was rejected in favor of new construction near Bain Middle School due to the potential danger construction on Arlington would pose while students are still attending classes. As of writing, the fate of the Arlington school building and its blacktop is unknown.

Correction: An amendment to the resolution by the city council to provide funding to revitalize city playgrounds was adopted providing $7,500 for the playground at Arlington Elementary, as well as several others not originally listed. The resolution passed during the Cranston City Council meeting on December 18. 

Arlington, play, playground


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