On the street
I like to play basketball.
It may be child’s play, but it probably looks familiar to anyone who has spent time on a school playground.
Kids today still kick it old-school — locking down the tetherball pole before anyone else is a big deal, getting a prime foursquare location can make or break your game, and tagging a classmate to be the next “it” — cooties notwithstanding. These are all recess triumphs.
Not only are the games the same, the rules are just as stringent.
“No crossing the line. No touching the rope. No touching the pole. No rope serves,” rattles off Langston Hughes School third-grader Elizabeth Mullins as she waits patiently in line for her turn at tetherball.
“My mom played tetherball,” says Elizabeth Brouck, a third-grader also waiting in line. “And she played basketball.”
Even the fifth-graders, those older kids who may think they are too cool for school, play along.
“Like tag, those games are still around,” says Tristan Delnevo. “They’re just not played as much.”
There’s also the blacktop favorite, kickball, which seems to rule the day at Schwegler School.
“You can kick the hardest you can and run the fastest you can,” says Schwegler third-grader Luis Torres. “I only play the regular games.”
Students will also bring big games down to size.
“Right now, a lot of kids are doing something called fifth-grade Olympics,” Tristan says. “We’re just doing different little sports and just competing in them.”
While some games have spanned generations, today’s kids are getting creative on the playground, too. However, they do use some inspiration from the tried and true games.
Take “Pack Rat,” for example.
A modified version of tag, “Pack Rat” uses modern playground equipment to take the original version to new heights.
Students climb up on a jungle gym that Langston Hughes School fifth-graders have dubbed “The Dome.” Whoever is “it” has to wait 30 seconds before going after other players.
“Then they come over to the dome and try and tag everyone they could possibly tag,” says Addie Graham. “We like to invent games.”
Third-grade girls at Prairie Park School have taken a version of Marco Polo and brought it to land.
“We made up a game called ‘Don’t Wake the Tiger,’” says Tia Herrman. “There’s a tiger and he sits in the tire. You walk around and try not to make noise.”
So what happens if you awaken the striped beast?
“If the tiger wakes up, then you have to run into the spider web,” says Isabelle Luckman, referring to the school’s jungle gym.
And, of course, there’s always some role playing to do, whether it’s trying to outdo your playground pal pretending to be Superman or acting like your favorite animal.
A playground united
Gone are the days of cootie shots and boys and girls running to opposite sides of the field when the bell rings. It’s all inclusive during recess.
Well, mostly. It depends on who you ask.
“We like to chase the boys around the playground and play tag,” Isabelle says.
But the boys at Prairie Park aren’t exactly as excited about the prospect of getting chased by adorable little girls.
“For us, it’s not (fun),” says Mason Phelps, a third-grader. “They always win.”
At Schwegler School, the fun and games will cross gender lines.
“Boys and girls play the same thing,” Luis says.
Time on the playground during recess is the one part of the day kids can mingle and get out their energy.
“It’s usually the only time we get to get together with friends that aren’t in your class,” says Prairie Park third-grader Riley Turpin.
Sometimes the kids see recess as a time to get a mini-workout.
“It makes your body more active,” says Elizabeth Brouck.
But those healthy life lessons aren’t the main motivation for kids to show that they got game.
“You don’t have to be in a school and learn,” says Elizabeth Mullins. “You just get to go out and play.”