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Charlotte schools get creative as they prepare for the Fall school year

Janice Williams with Safe Kids Charlotte-Mecklenburg said she first thought of the idea after working for Atrium Health.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If students return to school this fall, kids and teachers alike at River Oaks Academy in Mount Holly have some new outdoor games and activities to look forward to.

The Charlotte Fire Department recently teamed up with Safe Kids Charlotte-Mecklenburg to paint a number of outdoor games and educational activities on the blacktop in front of the school’s playgrounds. 

There’s foursquare, snakes and ladders, a multiplication table and a map of the US. 

“This one is my favorite, it has a star where all of the capitals are,” said Leigh Kish, a Fire and Life Safety Educator for the Charlotte-Fire Department, and a volunteer on the project.

“This is a calculator right here where they can bring students out learning math,” she said, pointing to the artwork on the ground.

Janice Williams with Safe Kids Charlotte-Mecklenburg said she first thought of the idea after working for Atrium Health. She said data showed 20% of the falls for elementary-aged kids, which included hospitalizations for their injuries, were from elementary school playgrounds. 

“What we learned is the reality is for our public schools, is they’re so large that over a 100 kids can be on one piece of playground equipment at one time,” she said, “And so that was the original idea to try and figure out how we can create some other areas of play to pull kids off of the playground equipment.”

We are all set to serve families in this area in July and August if ... you submit your email and zip code using the link below the study team will send you a calendar to sign up! Safe Kids Charlotte Mecklenburg is part of a multi city study to validate using virtual reality to install child safety seats.

But the idea has now helped to solve more than one challenge schools will face this fall as schools reopen: if they reopen. Many are now trying to come up with creative ways to keep students engaged, while also socially distanced.

“Even if they have arranged a schedule where only one class is allowed on the playground equipment at one time, that’s 30 kids,” said Williams.

Williams said by painting these games and activities outside, teachers can not only keep kids spread out but can teach creatively.

“For example, Elon did a paideia circle so they could have the kids sit outside 6 feet apart and the teacher would be in the middle using chalk to draw lines between the themes of the book," said Williams.

A little paint, some volunteers and a whole lot of love, making sure kids this fall can play and learn together, while still staying physically apart. 

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“For us especially as part of the Charlotte Fire Department were always looking for new ways to engage the community and interact with them and this is a great way to do that, it’s something several hundred kids will benefit from,” said Kish.

Williams said Safe Kids has purchased the stencils for the paintings and said the agency will be loaning them out to any school interested in painting with them. 

She said the school just needs volunteers to help and the funds to purchase the paint. Something she said PTA’s, community associations or local churches can help with.

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