FORT WORTH -- During recess at Phillips Elementary School, kindergarten teacher Beverly Gavrel watched and worried as kids stood in long lines for a turn on the slide or loitered on the playground.
"Bullying and obesity are two of the biggest issues our children are dealing with, and that's exactly what happens when kids stand around doing nothing at recess," Gavrel said.
So Gavrel and other teachers and parents began raising money three years ago to bring Peaceful Playgrounds to Phillips. The nationwide program provides a do-it-yourself kit that allows schools to transform pavement into vibrant, colorful play areas with numbers, letters and geometric shapes.
Created by an elementary school principal in the 1990s, the program aims to combat bullying and obesity through collaborative, structured play. Peaceful Playgrounds provides stencils and a blueprint with measurements, layout, spacing and placement. Kids can play old-fashioned games such as hopscotch and four square or make up new ones.
The program cost $4,500, which the school raised last year with a walkathon. Gavrel also donated $1,000 from Sam's that she received for being named Teacher of the Year.
About 40 volunteers from Phillips and Range Online Media, a Fort Worth company that often partners with the school, spent a recent Saturday painting the blacktop bright yellows, reds and blues.
Gavrel, who has taught for 31 years and is retiring after this year, said children learn better in class when recess is part of their day.
"Kids need to get outside and burn energy," Gavrel said. "They get only 15 or 20 minutes of recess a day, so it's important to make the most of it."
About 8,000 schools nationwide use Peaceful Playgrounds. Phillips is the first in Fort Worth to adopt it, but school officials hope that it will not be the last.
Georgi Roberts, the district's director of health and physical education, said such programs help battle the culture of physical inactivity that has pervaded the country.
"Children thrive in playtime," Roberts said. "We need to be doing everything we can to get our kids physically active."
Margie Miller, whose 6-year-old daughter attends Phillips, said the children immediately began inventing games and running, skipping and hopping on the newly painted pavement. "A lot of learning goes on at the playground," Miller said. "This spurs creativity and teamwork and teaches the kids how to interact with each other."
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056