2018 is nearly over, and what a year it’s been!
It seems that just yesterday, we were issuing in the new year, toasting and celebrating to 365 brand-new days ahead of us, preparing to launch new products for the 2018 year. But winter flew into spring, summer sprinted into autumn. Now, as the temperature turns south and the snow begins to fall, it’s hard to believe that the year has already come and gone. 2019 is just around the corner. When did that happen?!?
If you’re like me, wondering where the year went, you should join me and the rest of the staff here at Fit and Fun Playscapes as we look back and remember all the new friends we made, all the new products we introduced, and all the new projects we worked on this year.
Of course, we overhauled the Fit and Fun Playscapes blog in July, with the help of yours truly. Since our blog post about Candy Land in Yuma, Arizona, we have consistently provided weekly updates of our company, our brand, and our reach. We’ve done a lot of great things this year, including re-launching the blog under a new name, FOR THE FUN OF FIT!
Get it? Ya know, like “for the fun of it?” Get it? Get it?
As you’ll notice, we’re very punny over here at Fit and Fun Playscapes. We do not regret this at all.
There are a few blog posts worth highlighting here, specifically about new research we found in relation to the importance of recess in a child’s school day. To be frank, children need recess to perform their best. Here are a few notable blog posts to hit on this point:
In August, we discussed the important physical benefits that a child gets when they have access to daily recess. Many studies found that children with access to daily recess were healthier than those without. We also talked about how the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and that recess can provide a significant chunk of this recommendation.
Later in August, we featured a guest post on the blog from Michael J. Hynes, E.D., Superintendent of Schools for the Patchogue-Medford School District in Long Island, New York. His post discussed some of his own important observations about the behavior of the children in his school district, where kids have access to 40 minutes of recess and 40 minutes of lunch per day, in addition to mindfulness breaks for grades K-8. In short, there is a BIG difference.
At the beginning of September, we published the second part of our series on redefining recess, this time focusing on the educational benefits that daily recess provides. In short, children with access to daily recess performed better in the classroom and on memory tests than children without. We determined that “brain breaks” are necessary for a child to function at their best during the school day.
In perhaps our most comprehensive blog post of the year, we uncovered that children in 43 states don’t have access to mandatory daily recess. Many states, like Fit and Fun’s home state of New York, have fitness requirements but say nothing about daily recess. We (as in, me) spent hours combing through meticulous state documents on recess and fitness requirements for each of the 50 states–and yes, I actually did this–and found that only seven states–Missouri, Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island–have a written-down requirement for mandatory recess. Some states, while they have a mandatory daily fitness requirement, do not have anything required for recess.
And recess, as we discuss a bit in the post, is where the important concept of unstructured play is, well…best utilized.
In April of this year, Fit and Fun Playscapes collaborated with the city of Yuma, AZ, to design a set of custom stencils that transformed one of the oldest parks in the city, Joe Henry Optimist Center Park, into a real-life version of Hasbro’s Candy Land! Some of our custom stencils included famous locations from the popular board game, like the Lollipop Palace, Peppermint Forest, Licorice Lagoon and King Kandy’s Castle, among a few others.
“The life-sized version of Candy Land will guide children and families onto a magical path,” said Adriana Medrano, a neighborhood services specialist for the city of Yuma and one of the main coordinators behind the project.
The project, which was made possible by The Walt Disney Company through the Meet Me at the Park Play Spaces Program, opened on April 7. Prior to opening, volunteers worked tirelessly for several weeks preparing to lay Fit and Fun’s custom playground stencils in place. The event brought community members from across the city together, and also featured free health screenings and ice cream!
I bet that ice cream tasted great under the hot Yuma sun!
Another project we’re proud of was the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Francisco, California. The museum hosted on average 100 kids per week at numerous over-the-summer camps, and during the school year, as many as 10,000 kids would visit the museum on field trips.
But kids weren’t the only ones that Fit and Fun’s stencils needed to impress. Many of the museum’s visitors are also aviation enthusiasts, experts, and retirees. So, in addition to looking aesthetically pleasing, the custom stencils needed to be as technically correct and accurate as possible. So, Fit and Fun’s in-house designers worked closely with Jon Welte, Vice-President of Education and Public Programs at the museum, to bring this custom design to life. Welte expressed great satisfaction with how the project turned out.
“Our public outdoor areas have been transformed by the project,” Welte told us in September. “I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to transform an important part of our visitor experience with such a modest expenditure of time and treasure.”
Some of our custom stencils included two Airbus-themed hopscotches and an accurate airplane runway…built to scale, of course! The dimensions were all designed to represent real Airbuses and a real runway, albeit on a much, much smaller scale. I mean, have you seen the SIZE of an Airbus??
On Oct. 26, two teams of volunteers got together at the Bogalusa YMCA to paint Fit and Fun’s custom playground stencils. There they painted a variety of high-intensity stencils to provide local resi
dents with calorie-burning activities like hopscotch, lunges, and squats in order to fight childhood and adult obesity on a local level. This is important, since Well-Ahead Louisiana, an initiative launched by the Louisiana Board of Health in 2014, reports on their website that Louisiana ranks 49th in Overall Health and 46th in Cancer Deaths and Obesity nationwide, according to America’s Health Rankings, 2017.
What’s great about Bogalusa is the interaction after the stencils were painted. We had plenty of updates in the days and weeks following the painting, telling us all about how much use the stencils were getting.
“To help promote increased physical activity, the playground stencils are being installed in multiple locations across the community,” said Valerie Vincent, FCS Regional Coordinator for the Southeast Region at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, or LSU Agcenter for short. “The stencils get residents physically active while also enhancing community spaces with a playful element. The stencil project has been such a successful avenue for building and strengthening relationships within the community.”
Bronx Envision Academy, BRONX, NY
Fit and Fun’s project with the Bronx Envision Academy happened by a chance meeting at the 2017 NYS AHPERD Conference, but it has shaped into something special. The Bronx Envision Academy’s ongoing project is a mosaic of education and sports that features many of Fit and Fun’s custom stencils, including the USA map, basketball courts, and four-square, all painted with bright Sherwin-Williams paint.
To help complete the project, Fit and Fun enlisted the help of painting apprentices from New York’s DC9 union, for whose help we are very grateful.
The Bronx Envision Academy is expected to complete their project in the spring when the weather clears up. All of us here at Fit and Fun Playscapes are looking forward to seeing the completed version!
Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, POUGHKEEPSIE, NY
The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie is dedicated to protecting at-risk children right in Fit and Fun Playscapes’ native Hudson Valley. With important mission words like integrity, honor, and respect, the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie provides services like boarding homes, care management services and emergency foster care for those who can’t protect themselves for some 160 years.
That’s why Fit and Fun Playscapes was proud to donate one of our custom Daisy Hopscotch stencils for one of their brand-new black asphalt surfaces, which came out looking fantastic. Sherwin-Williams donated the paint and helped with volunteering to lay the stencil on the blacktop. All-in-all, a wonderful project for an awesome cause!
Conway Elementary School, Stafford, VA
The move from Boy Scout into Eagle Scout is the equivalent of getting into an Ivy League school. According to the official website of the Boy Scouts of America, only four percent of boy scouts reach the rank of “eagle.” In order to do so, the scout must earn 21 merit badges, including badges for first aid, personal management, cooking, emergency preparedness, and sustainability, among many others.
That’s why, when the mother of an eagle scout reached out to Fit and Fun Playscapes for assistance in her son’s eagle scout project, a necessary part of the Boy Scouts’ lengthy community service requirements, we were more than willing to help, since Pam Gunther, Fit and Fun’s founder, has three boy scouts herself. Because of this, she was all too aware of the challenges an eagle scout must overcome.
The project took place at Conway Elementary in Stafford, Virginia, and included our USA Map stencil along with several hopscotches and a race track.
For the last of our highlighted projects this year, but certainly not least, is the work we did with St. Peter’s Health Partners. St. Peter’s is the New York Capital Region’s largest healthcare system with some 12,500 employees at 165 locations. In addition to a large care network, St. Peter’s also has a community outreach program to better their local communities in and around Albany, New York.
Fit and Fun Playscapes worked with St. Peter’s on the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (which has an awesome acronym, TOAST!) to create a brand-new outdoor learning center. The space, which featured a dozen soil beds for fruits, vegetables, and flowers, also included several of our custom yoga wall stencils to encourage physical activity, in addition to a maze, hopscotch, and bullseye.
In addition to Fit and Fun’s stencils, TOAST’s “Garden Club” was made possible through the Creating Healthy Schools and Community grant. Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Honest Weight Food Co-op also joined the project by donating seeds and plants for the garden beds.
“The stencils help to put the finishing touches on the playground and outdoor garden,” said Alyssa Joseph, Community Relations Liasion and Program Coordinator at Community Health Programs. “The games and activities help increase physical activity, promote mindfulness in schools and the bright colors draw the children in.”
We “rolled out” our line of Roll-Out Recess portable games in September, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback since then. Customers love the high-quality material that allows their kids to enjoy the fun of outdoor recess activities like four-square, hopscotch and the agility ladder indoors. We’ve been blown away by the feedback, and we’re working to “roll out” more of our recess games soon!
Also, I promise no more roll out jokes!
Our Roll-out Recess games are perfect for those rainy or snowy days and great for classrooms, hallways or gymnasiums. We have a wonderful video over on our YouTube channel that’s dedicated to our Roll-Out line.
And yes, all of our games are made out of anti-slip vinyl, which means all the fun without the injury!
Our newest product line, Stick-On Stencils, takes a few of our outdoor recess games and turn them into permanent stickers—perfect for classroom/hallway walls and floors! Like our Roll-Out Recess line, we’ve been receiving customer feedback for years, asking us if we sell stencils that can be stuck onto walls and floors. Well, now we do!
We launched our Stick-On Stencils just this month and already we’ve gotten tons of positive feedback from teachers and principals all around the country. The cool thing about our Stick-On Stencils is that they were developed with the help of occupational therapists and physical education teachers, all with space in mind.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know we’ve talked extensively about the importance of recess for a child’s physical, mental and social-emotional wellness—but also that, with heightened national education requirements, recess has become a luxury in many schools. Whereas, when I was growing up, we were guaranteed 30 minutes of lunch and 30 minutes of recess a day. I also discovered that 43 out of 50 states lack mandatory recess in the United States, something that I wrote about back in September.
Stick-On Stencils was specifically designed with time and space in mind, so even if your students don’t have access to daily recess, they do have access to physical or mental activities in the classroom. That way, they can step away from a long day for even five or 10 minutes and recharge their brains!
This last product is made by a wonderful California-based company named Soul Shoppe that’s making waves with their “Peace Path,” a conflict-resolution tool specifically designed with kids in mind. We’re lucky enough to license their product on our website through a special agreement, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from education professionals that we’ve included this product in our shop.
The Peace Path is unique in that it allows children on the playground to talk through their problems, step-by-step, through a series of prompts, before the conflict escalates. This tool is important, since it’s all too common for adults to want to intervene in a scuffle on the playground—instead, the Peace Path allows children to take the reins in their own conflict resolution, teaching them important life lessons. The adult can, and is encouraged to, supervise, but the Peace Path is designed specifically so that the kids can solve their own problems.
THE END OF A YEAR
Phew, that was a lot of words! It’s hard to believe how much we’ve done in such a short amount of time. We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs, but overall we’ve had an immensely positive year filled with friends and fun, and we can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.
The blog will be taking a short break over the holidays, but expect a bold return in early January to kick off the 2019 year. Then, we’ll start all over again!
From all of us here at Fit and Fun Playscapes, we hope you have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year. See you in 2019!