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Falcons News · Form and Function Invigorate Elementary School Play Yards


by Eric Amkraut, Yeshivah of Flatbush Athletic Director and Supervisor of Physical Education

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Eric Amkraut, Yeshivah of Flatbush Athletic Director and Supervisor of Physical Education, looks on as the transformation of the Elementary School play yard gets underway.

The sounds of jackhammers and power drills have been in the air at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School, as the year-long renovation of the locker rooms and the construction of a new gymnasium is nearing its completion.   But until this week, it was a foreign element at the Elementary School building.  That changed on Monday, May 11, when the din of students at play was augmented by the digging of holes in the Elementary School play yards.

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Like Spring blooms revitalizing the atmosphere with renewed energy after a dark, cold winter, what had been a plain play yard has been revitalized and invigorated this past week, and is a place the students of our Elementary School now look forward to with eager enthusiasm for play and respite from the stresses of the classroom.

The changes in the play yard are the result of input, effort and hard work from multiple avenues within the school community, a true communal effort.  It was clear to me from the first time I saw the area that we needed to do something to make the space more conducive to student activity both educationally and recreationally.  At the same time, a pair of Middle Division teachers, Mr. Avi Smus and Rabbi Yitz Hertzberg, as well as a number of committed parents also began pushing for improvements in the play yard, a space that is used frequently by nearly every student in the school.  Though plans are in place for a resurfacing of the play area for the summer, this group – coming at it from different avenues – felt the waiting was long enough, and they made it happen!  Having contracted with Homecourt Hoops, the project vendor out of Morristown, New Jersey, the funds were raised, the equipment was purchased and the date for installation was set.

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On Monday, holes were dug in the concrete and asphalt of the play yards and the footings were set for four new permanent basketball hoops and two park benches, specifically for the use of Flatbush’s Elementary School students during recess.  Some of our students, ever inquisitive, even asked the workers for information about the process as they were finishing up smoothing out the cement.  On Wednesday, Mike Westhead and his staff returned to secure the benches, hang the backboards and bolt in the hoops (lines for the basketball play areas as well as other playground games will be put down after the scheduled resurfacing is completed during the summer months).

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No sooner were the final touches in place – protective padding in the school’s colors, it was time for recess and a wonderful, new surprise awaiting the students.  They hit the ground running and shooting – and smiling, our boys and girls taking full advantage of the open space and the quality hoops.  With the hoops set a varying heights in the Lower Division yard, one at 8’ and the other at a regulation 10’, and the two benches at the opposite end, it looked as if every student was engaged in using the entire space.  It was a moment to behold, best summed up by the astute observation of 2nd Grader Victor Shamia who said quite succinctly, “this is so cool!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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