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Pupils learn how to play it safe on the playground

April 09, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Playgrounds can be dangerous.

The swings, slides and ladders look like fun, but they are not always safe, according to Washington County Recreation Superintendent Stacey McLeran.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates nearly 200,000 children suffer playground injuries every year. Of those, 17 die, McLeran says.

McLeran is trying to raise awareness about playground safety. She is visiting the county's elementary schools to promote a new program, Children Helping to Improve Playground Safety (CHIPS).

On Thursday, McLeran and volunteer Jamie Shyda explained CHIPS at Funkstown Elementary School. Shyda, a Bosco Associates sales representative, is a former Recreation Department employee.

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"It's really important to teach the kids to be advocates for themselves," said Shyda, who is a certified playground safety inspector. "We give them rules, but they don't always understand why."

Standing in the school auditorium, McLeran and Shyda led a group of second- and third-graders in a sing-along. They introduced the kids to the CHIPS mascot, a chipmunk puppet named Chippy.

Shyda told the children how to play safely. She emphasized the need for supervision, telling the youngsters to make sure adults are watching them on the playground. She said they should play on equipment that is appropriate to their age.

Older children should not play on toddlers' equipment and vice versa, according to Shyda. "You know those big overhead ladders? Little kids don't have the strength yet. So they're going to fall off," she said.

Nine out of 10 most serious playground injuries are falls, according to McLeran.

Shyda showed the students samples of rubber and mulch, explaining the difference between falling on asphalt and falling on a cushioned surface.

Shyda also stressed equipment maintenance, such as picking up litter. "Pay attention to what's around your playground," she said. Trash such as broken glass should not be touched, she said. "I want you to notice it but not pick it up."

McLeran and Shyda showed a video and gave a demonstration on the playground. They distributed National Program for Playground Safety pamphlets to the teachers. McLeran said she hopes to offer in-service training for school playground aides.

McLeran said she had taken the CHIPS program to Greenbrier, Maugansville, Paramount and Salem Avenue elementary schools.

The next demonstration will be at Boonsboro Elementary School on April 30. Other schools scheduled include: Winter Street, May 17; Fountaindale, May 21 and Pangborn, June 1. McLeran said she is happy to meet with day-care providers as well.

For more information, call her office at 301-791-3187.

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