Playground more than monkey bars, swing sets

By Greg Gelpi

While Brown Elementary School students are out playing for the summer, workers busily installed new playground equipment so they can play when school is back in.

The "fitness cluster" features more than the traditional swing set and monkey bars, but has a rock wall and other exercise stations.

"It's really not playground equipment," Brown Elementary Principal Cindy Lee said. "It's more of a fitness course. I think it's probably the first of its kind in Clayton County. Basically, this is to help improve the health of our children."

The seven individual stations of the course allow children of all ages to perform fitness programs.

"It may be new to the county, but it's certainly not new to the industry," said Bob Boudreau, the president of Sporting Concepts International, the company that installed the playground equipment.

The equipment is designed for all ages and is color-coded so that children can know the difficulty of a particular exercise.

"Middle school kids are too old for playground equipment, but they still need to go out and get fitness," Boudreau said.

The equipment is designed to be used with a structured fitness program.

Southern Regional Medical Center, one of Brown Elementary's partners in education, and Shannon Dukes of the Clayton County Health Department helped the school get the equipment through a grant.

"Hopefully, it will help them implement health and fitness into their daily routine," Southern Regional Health Education Coordinator Kelly Rook said.

The fitness equipment is more than just equipment, Rook said. It also comes with prewritten health and fitness regiments for teachers to incorporate into physical education classes.

The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation grant will also fund training for teachers who will use the equipment in physical education and other classes.

Lee said signs have also been installed around the equipment with suggestions for fitness routines for children and adults to use on their own.

Many people from the community use the walking track at Brown Elementary, and Clayton County's recreation department uses the school's facilities for camps and sporting events.

"When it's complete, all these groups can use it, so we hope it will go beyond the school day," Lee said.

Lee said she hopes to have the fitness equipment completed and open for use when school opens. She is waiting on ground covering to be installed around the equipment before this can happen.

The Brown Elementary Parent Teacher Association helped purchase traditional play ground equipment earlier in the year, Lee said.

The school system typically doesn't include playground equipment in its designs for new schools or renovations for schools.