P.A.L.S. is a playground leadership program developed by the Region of Peel Public Health and adapted by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. This program encourages all children to participate in activities at recess regardless of their gender, size or ability. The motto is “there is always room for one more”.
The objectives of implementing the program in Leeds Grenville and Lanark area are to:
- increase physical activity
- decrease conflict and reduce the incidence of playground bullying
- provide leadership opportunities for students
- build mentoring relationships between older and younger students
Public Health Nurses work with school staff and student leaders to implement and sustain the program. School staff are identified to coordinate and supervise the program in their school throughout the year. Students in grades four to six are recruited, engaged, and trained to act as Playground Activity Leaders for younger students. These students plan and lead fun, safe activities on the playground.
The P.A.L.S. student leader training is approximately three to four hours. Some schools choose to do this in one full day session, divide it into two sessions, or multiple smaller sessions. During this training, student leaders are provided with the opportunity to learn and practice:
- playground safety
- the qualities of a leader and different leadership styles
- communication skills
- how to lead games in a collaborative and inclusive way
- conflict resolution skills
Resources to support the program include (Only available to schools in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Counties):
- Supervisor Handbook: This handbook is intended for the P.A.L.S. supervisor(s) at the school. It includes information on their responsibilities, recruiting and selecting leaders, student leader training, scheduling, launching and sustaining the program. Hard copies of this handbook are provided by the Public Health Nurse.
- Leader Handbook: This handbook is intended for the P.A.L.S. student leaders at the school. It is used to support the student training session and includes information and activities on: being a leader, communication styles, bullying, conflict resolution, and fair play. Hard copies of this handbook are provided by the Public Health Nurse.
- P.A.L.S. Games Book: This book contains a variety of games (e.g. games of tag, ball, skipping, clapping) for the playground. Hard copies of this handbook are provided by the Public Health Nurse.
- Resources created by local schools
- Sample Agenda for Student Leader Training
- Videos: The Bully Dance
- Celebration Ideas
In the Spring of 2013, a survey was completed by local school staff and student leaders in schools that were implementing the P.A.L.S. program. The results were reviewed and here are some of the highlights (grouped into themes) that may improve the sustainability and success of the program.
Recruiting and Maintaining Leaders
- Target specific grades and classes for selecting leaders; it is a good idea to have students from these groups apply to be leaders making it more official and ensuring the students who are leaders want to be there.
- Have a good size pool of leaders. Between 20–50 depending on the frequency and number of games you have running.
- Have a schedule at the office where P.A.L.S. leaders are announced each day.
- Have discussions with student leaders about the importance of their role and have the leaders come up with ideas to help ensure they show up at scheduled times.
- Have back-ups available for students who are not at school that day.
- When possible have students be responsible to ask another P.A.L.S. leader to cover their day if they have a conflict (e.g., soccer try-outs, school trip).
- Schedule students in groups so that they can support each other.
- Have announcements to remind students of the P.A.L.S activities.
- Avoid over-scheduling students.
- Allow other P.A.L.S. leaders to help out if they want to/if it is needed.
- Post schedules in different places (at the office, in classrooms, or other high traffic areas).
Training Student Leaders
- Choose the training session that is right for your school.
- Have only school staff train student leaders OR invite the Health Unit to support your school with the training.
- Provide a full day (3–4 hrs) session of training, OR divide it into two 2 hour sessions, OR multiple smaller sessions.
- Schedule meetings with student leaders between every two weeks – every month.
- Provide leaders with nutritious snacks at meetings.
- Have a system that provides leaders an opportunity to identify their challenges and celebrate successes.
- Empower student leaders to work together on ways to resolve their issues and challenges that they have identified.
Promoting the Program
- Advertise the games using classroom/school wide demos of activities, flyers and announcements.
Implementing a Successful Program
- Allow the leaders and/or participants to be a part of choosing the games.
- Target different age groups (grades 1–4 were most popular) at different times.
- Games that were found to work best:
- K–Grade 1 – Tag Games, Ball Games
- Grades 2–3 – Beanbag Toss, “Stones” Game, Tag Games, Obstacle Course, Group Games
- Grades 4–5 – Rubber Chicken Games, “Stones” Game, Bucket Ball
- Please feel free to share more games that you have found successful.