In order to form a comprehensive approach to school health, Shady Grove Elementary School partnered with the LSU AgCenter and the Ouachita Parish Healthy Communities Coalition. This partnership resulted in the creation of an indoor playground at the school to provide a place for active recess play even on days when weather prevents the students from enjoying the outdoor playground. Grant funding and community partnerships were instrumental in the completion of the indoor playground. Now even rainy days are active days at Shady Grove!
Louisiana has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation. Many children do not get enough physical activity daily or eat a healthful diet on a regular basis. The obesity prevalence in Ouachita Parish is 37.4% compared to the national median of 28.4% (2019 Healthiest Communities rankings). Thirty percent of the population is physically inactive, and only 11.1% of at-home food expenditures are for fruits and vegetables. Finding ways for children to be physically active on bad weather days is a challenge for most schools. Outdoor recess often becomes impossible due to weather conditions. Physical activity becomes limited during the school day when this happens.
A very exciting environmental and systems change at Shady Grove Elementary School has been the creation of an indoor playground. This project began with the goal of providing a place for active recess play even on bad weather days. The traditional system for recess on rainy, too cold, or too hot Louisiana days was for students to watch a movie or play a board game in the classroom. The indoor playground changed that system for the lower grades at the school via an inside play space designed to encourage kids to get moving. An existing empty Pre-K classroom was transformed into the indoor playground by Healthy Communities Coalition members and volunteers with grant funding. The indoor playground includes stations to promote healthy living and active lifestyles. The walls were painted with colorful murals to make the space fun and inviting. Volunteers painted areas of the room to become a play kitchen with stove, refrigerator, cabinets, and sink. A pretend grocery store was placed close to the kitchen so children can shop for “food” then prepare it in the kitchen. A blank wall was painted with magnetic primer and chalk paint so students can play with magnets and creatively draw with sidewalk chalk. Large floor stickers were installed to create spaces for hopscotch, jumping, and walking. A large caterpillar crawl through sits in the center of the room. Active equipment such as balls, trikes, and hula hoops round out the space.
The Healthy Communities Work Group will continue to meet and work on projects to help make the healthy choice the easy choice at Shady Grove Elementary School. Future plans include increasing parent and volunteer involvement in the Healthy Communities efforts in order to ensure sustainability. As word of the efforts is shared on social media, in the local news, and by word of mouth, we expect the number of volunteers to grow. A partnership to recruit volunteers has been formed with other nonprofit agencies. These efforts will heighten visibility of the program and strengthen its sustainability.