Heritage school community creates engaging outdoor space for students, teachers

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Without access to basketballs, footballs and soccer balls, the recess options were limited for students at Heritage Middle School this year.

Principal Dr. Dru Tomlin started thinking about how the school could make recess more engaging last March and plans started to gain steam in August. He worked with the school’s National Junior Honors Society and PTSA to research what other schools were doing and what kind of supplies were needed. 

On Saturday, 50 students and family members volunteered to convert the blank pavement into a space that encourages students to run, skip, jump, play and socialize. They painted several stations across the asphalt: two hopscotch diagrams, a series of lines where students can measure the length of their jumps, a winding walking path adorned with student-created artwork, a crown filled with a word cloud, a start and finish line and a spattering of dots with the word “jump” sprinkled around them.

“When you give a middle school kid a circle on the ground, they find a way to engage with it,” Tomlin said. “You don’t have to say anything. They see it and say, ‘Oh there’s a dot. I’m going to jump on that.’”

He said volunteers also wanted something teachers could use as well so they painted a Venn diagram and a grid of 26 boxes to support outdoor learning activities. 

“I hope students recognize the personal investment people make into their schools,” he said. “That’s so important — giving back to their schools.” 

Eighth-grader Alexandra Corban, a member of the National Junior Honors Society, was among the volunteers who helped revamp the new outdoor space. She marveled at seeing her classmates playing the areas she helped stencil.

“It’s kind of cool to know that you created that, you made it work,” she said.

Seventh-grader Jana Mohammed immediately noticed all the fun options now available during recess and jumped at the chance to play hopscotch. 

“It’s nice,” she said. “I like how we have new things to play with since we didn’t have much equipment.”