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Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity and Socio-behavioral Connectedness

Maryam Delavar, Iryna V. Kolesnikova , Maryam Sh. Hosseini, Nahid S. Sharifi
Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. 2018, 6(1), 9-14. DOI: 10.12691/rpbs-6-1-2
Published online: February 09, 2018

Abstract

School is an important environment for mediating children's personal and social development. We aimed to determine the effect of daily colorful playground-based physical activity on some aspects of social behavior among girls in primary school. The study subjects consist of 22 students from two primary divisions of Tehran International and Adaptive School Girls aged between 6 and 7, who were allocated to the intervention (n=12) and control (n=10) groups. The intervention group was implemented through eight weeks intervention strategy, whilst the control group was utilized with daily physical activity on blacktop playground surfaces. The students' emotional sphere, emotional status and cohesion were evaluated using three standardized testing methods appropriately. The results showed that there is lower aggression and conflict, but higher social cohesion between pre and post-test of intervention group. Therefore, daily colorful playground-based physical activity is an essential implement on socio-behavioral adjustment of students during the first major educational transition in primary school.

1. Introduction

The primary school age is a period that children's personal and social development gains significance. Indeed, the start of primary schooling has been perceived as one of the most important transitions in a child's life and a major challenge of early childhood.

Initial success at school both socially and intellectually lead to a virtuous cycle of achievement 1 and can be a critical factor in determining children's adjustment to the demands of the school environment and future progress 2.

A range of writings 3, 4 proposes that the way in which transitions are experienced not only makes a difference to children in the early months of a new situation, but may also have much longer-term impact.

Remarkably, at this time, children need an opportunity to establish positive social connections at school, if they exposed to social cohesion, supportive environment and positive emotional attachments, they will be at reduced risk of numerous physical and mental health disorders 5, 6. Hence, school is an important environment for mediating children's overall health and development 7, such as physical, mental and social well-being.

In this regard, primary school children broadly have had racess (or playtime) as a scheduled part of their day for as long as there have been schools and throughout the entire world 8. In addition, the World Health Organization in 1995 established the health promoting schools initiative as a way to stimulate schools to work toward considering themselves as places that encourage overall health and well-being 9.

The impulse to play is innate. Moreover, play is an universal language of childhood which is a biological, psychological and social necessity that can be an important way of creating bonds with other children.

Through history, children played in their villages and neighborhoods, especially in the streets and lanes near their homes 10. In the 19th century, German pedagogue Froebel proposed playground (or tod lot) as a developmental aid 11. In the late 20th century child psychologists and educators have considered the school playground as an important venue for children's social and cognitive development 12, 13.

Thus, the school playground has a profoundly ambiguous status as a setting for children's play. Apparently, playground is the principal social arena where games are passed on 14 and perhaps the only school's settings in which children interact in their own terms 15.

In recent years, there is a wealth of literature published on the need for and benefit of physical activity (PA), not only for a child's physical well-being but also for academic and social maturation 16, 17, particularly, if will be provided safe and inviting environments for all children. Unstructured play also has been shown to have positive benefits by developing social skills and interpersonal relationships 18.

Above all, in recent years there has been significant and growing interest in school climate and playground. Furthermore, there is empirical proof being reported on various aspects of school climate 19, 20.

Although functional assessment of children's behavior is not a new phenomenon, play is coming to be seen both an assessment 21 and an intervention strategy 22, 23. Therefore, in the present study we aimed to determine the effect of daily colorful playground-based PA (CPbPA) on some aspects of social behavior among primary school children.

2. Materials and Methods

The theoretical bases of the present study were the principles of the system approach to the analysis of socio-psycho-pedagogical phenomena and activity approaches to the study of small group based on self-regulation of children's behavior during play according to the Vygotsky's theory 24.

For practical groundwork we have chosen CPbPA. Also, based on the three standardized testing methods, the effect of experimental intervention on some aspects of social behavior was evaluated appropriately. Thus, the following research projects were posed as the focus of our report.

2.1. Study Design and Population

The study was experimental in nature with pre and post-test control group design, and conducted in the start of 2016-17 academic year that lasted eight weeks. All students of first grade aged 6-7 years in both primary divisions of Tehran International and Adaptive School Girls (TI&ASG) formed the project.

International primary division with 12 non-Iranian students was assigned to the intervention group (IG), whilst the adaptive primary division, which included 10 Iranian students (who were living abroad and need to re-adjust to the Iranian educational system), named the control group (CG).

As a part of the project for IG, in summer 2016, only International division's playground was completed and new surface marked with color interactive games (eg, 4-square and hopscotch etc; Figure 1 below).

TI&ASG is facilitated campus in 15000 square meters land with modern equipments, canteen and cafeteria with priority on healthy school food policy and unique study environment, including indoor gym, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, as well as two equipped playgrounds.

2.2. Instrument

The current research relies on recommendations for well-supervised moderate-to-vigorous PA during recess 25, 26, which linked PA to several health and behavioral outcomes in school-aged children.

The intervention group was implemented through eight weeks PA on a colorful playground with ample recreational equipment on each school days, while the CG participated in the same PA program on the blacktop playground surfaces with similar equipment.

Both schools made an agreement with the researchers to endeavor to provide at least 60 minutes of daily PA as previously recommended 25, including 30 minutes before lunch time and a daily scheduled period of time (10 to 15-minutes) allocated for both group as an unstructured recess from academic rigor. Moreover, the grade one level physical education curriculum was followed among participants accordingly. Principally, all participants were also encouraged to reduce sedentary time activity.

2.3. Measuring Tests

To achieve the goal, we used a range of research methods by qualified staff members accordingly.

First, Panfilova's graphical method "Cactus" was performed 27. The purpose of this technique is determination of child's (4-7 years old) emotional sphere, presence of aggressiveness, and its direction and intensity as fully described previously 28. In brief, the subject was given a sheet of A4 paper and a simple pencil (medium-hardness) to draw a cactus. During process the spatial position, drawing size, line characteristics and force of pencil were taken into account. In addition, characteristic of the cactus image (wild, domestic, feminine, etc.), manner of drawing (drawn, sketchy, etc.) and needles (size, location, quantity) were also taken into consideration. The result was accomplished on a three-level scale, which shows the presence and degree of aggression: 8-10 points (low degree), 4-7 points (average degree), and 3 points or less (high degree).

Next, to identify emotional status, the Luscher color psychological test was carried out as previously described 29. Briefly, the test was performed by placing the eight cards of different colors in front of the participant of the test. The colors were divided between "basic" (blue, yellow, red, green) and "auxiliary" (violet, brown, grey, and black). After subjects were placed the cards in order from most liked to least liked, they were asked to evaluate the extent to which their personalities matched the descriptive statements formed by Luscher of each color. According to Luscher, a person who is healthy, normal balanced and free of conflicts and repressions, necessarily must have the four basic colors among his first five choices.

Finally, in order to study social cohesion among two groups of participants, Seashore's cohesiveness scale (5 item scale) was analyzed as previously described in detail 30. Concisely, the technique consists of 5 multiple choice questions. Responses are encoded in points according to the values given in parentheses (the maximum amount is +19 points, minimum is -5 points).

The questionnaire was in English for IG and adapted to Persian language for CG. Special attention was paid to ensure that all the students clearly understand the instructions about answering the questionnaire. In addition, it was ensured that all students had enough processing time to answer all items individually. All the collected data through pre and post-tests were documented in case notes.

2.4. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The inclusion criteria were:

- being a grade one student at the Tehran international school girls, or at Tehran adaptive school girls,

- having Iranian nationality (Iranian identification identity card) or foreign citizenship (foreign passport holder).

The exclusion criteria included having a chronic disease and history of chronic medication consumption.

2.5. Ethical Considerations

Ethics approval was granted and provided before seeing participants. The process of sampling and examination began after explaining the project to the students and their parents or legal guardians. Written informed consent and verbal consent were obtained from parents and students respectively. Participants could withdraw from the study at any time without having to justify their decision.

Please be noted that due to Tehran hazardous air quality, all students had opportunities for playground PA, school recess and outdoor physical education if weather was feasible for outdoor play.

2.6. Data Analysis

According to the task results, IG and CG were compared. Data analysis was performed with IBM SPSS statistics 23. The mean value of quantitative data was analyzed by t-test . The qualitative data was analyzed by Wilcoxon signed rank test. P-values ≤0.05 are reported as statistically significant.

3. Results

As the first part of analysis, the overall results of emotional sphere (degree of aggression) among IG and CG are displayed in Figure 2 below.

In reference to drawing technique the degree of aggression among IG and CG analysed respectively. The Figure 2 presents the following results: in IG pre-test 5, 4 and 3; in IG post-test 9, 2 and 1; in CG pre-test 4, 4 and 2, and in CG post-test 5, 4 and 1 participants with low, average and high degree of aggression were recorded respectively.

After analyzing the results of study and comparing the data among IG, we found that there is a substantial difference between the mean values of pre and post-test in determining the degree of aggression during observational method (data not shown). In CG only a difference between the mean values of high degree noticed.

In addition, to find out whether emotional sphere (degree of aggression) successfully accomplished or not, emotional status (conflict-prone individual) color psychological test as an additional researchers approach was employed. The overall pre and post-test results of the conflict-prone individual among IG and CG are shown in Figure 3 below.

In reference to color psychological test the participants without and with conflict among IG and CG analysed appropriately.

In the Figure 3, the results of pre and post-test in IG simply indicate that participants accomplished an increase (from 4 to 9) and a decrease (from 7 to 3) in the number without and with conflict respectively. There is a substantial difference between the mean values of pre and post-test among IG during observational method (data not shown).

The results of data analysis shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3 notably indicate that only IG made positive progress during the course.

To understand whether participants have social cohesion or not, the cohesiveness scale was employed appropriately.

For this purpose, the overall pre and post- test results of social cohesion among IG and CG participants are shown in Table 1 below.

According to the participants' responses to the cohesion index among IG and CG that are summarized in Table 1, assessments were derived for each child from all data points then were taken across pre-test and post-test. In order to test this, data from the indices were subject to non-parametric testing.

When treated IG for statistical purposes, cohesion changes on pre and post-test (Z= -2.7848, p=0.00272) is significant using Wilcoxon's signed ranks test. Subsequently, as it can clearly be seen in the Table 1, the result of social cohesion between pre and post-test in CG (Z= -0.4077, p=0.3409) characterized as statistically not significant.

4. Discussion

The present study attempted to evaluate the effect of daily CPbPA on aggression, conflict and social cohesion among first grade primary school students.

Social behavior is a broad topic, and there is a wealth of material available related to almost any aspect of the subject. When it comes to the first grade, particularly in TI&ASG, transition is stressful, students coming to a new country to enter formal schooling. Specifically, foreign national students from different countries in IG have diverse native language, ethnicities and social backgrounds. Whereas, Iranian students in CG, who were living abroad and upon their arrival they need to re-adjust to the Iranian educational system, have multi-ethnicity as well 31. In this regard, students neither in IG nor in CG have ethnic/racial homogeneity. In such a way, they are now faced with expectations to suppress impulses and get along with others 31.

Following successful termination with all the sessions in aforementioned research project and comparing the task analysis data of the pre-tests at the beginning of experiment with the post-tests performance.

The first result of this study revealed that in IG the degree of aggression is decreased substantially, when compared to the CG. In current study we assume that through drawing, children can re-present action, emotion, ideas or experiences and tell complex stories 32, 33. In addition, drawing is seen to have originated from children's physical action 33 and play 34.

To find out whether emotional sphere through drawing successfully accomplished or not, emotional status color psychological test as an additional researchers approach was employed. Subsequently, the result of our study clearly displayed that when compared with CG, the participants of IG shown a substantial reduction in the numbers of individual with conflict.

In this regard, we consider that color can have an important role within the mental health setting in enabling both therapeutic interpretations of emotional status and also as an intervention aid to facilitate exploration of emotion. In addition, color appears to be context appropriate with different situations and colors reflecting different emotions, thoughts, and behaviors 35. However, there needs to be a greater knowledge of the developmental use of color 36 and the interpretation from a child's perspective.

It's widely known that various factors have been shown to influence the amount of PA children accumulate during recess, including both individual factors such as age and sex of children 37, and environmental factors such as the size of the playground 38, availability of equipment and markings 39, and whether play is structured or unstructured 40.

As already stated, children need opportunities to establish positive social connections at school. Therefore, schools are uniquely placed to develop social cohesion among students from different backgrounds 41. About pre and post-test results of social cohesion in our study, we came to the issue that despite its relatively short periods of intervention, the comparison of pre and post-test scores of IG were statistically significant. We conclude that people in cohesive groups experience better emotional adjustment. In particular, people experience less anxiety and tension 42. It was also found that people cope better with stress when they belong to a cohesive group 43.

Researchers have indicated that recess environments play an important role in promotion of prosocial behaviors by encouraging group play and reducing social isolation 44. Many studies have also indicated that properly trained coordinators and guides play a large role in reducing levels of aggression, anger, bullying and social conflict and boosting levels of compassion, inclusion, empathy, physical activity and feelings of safety and belonging 45, 46, 47.

To the best our knowledge, no research has been carried out to study the effect of above mentioned strategy on some aspects of social behavior among international students in primary school. Although in the present study we used different methods and materials, our results here in agreement with previous findings 48, 49, 50 indicate the positive impact of environmental modifications with moderate to vigorous PA on the psychological health and social engagement of students. Indeed, we attribute this partly to the factor that colorful playground might increase self-regulatory behavior, which are associated with PA 51. As Vygotsky stated, children at play have an opportunity to improve self-regulation of behavior 24.

With regard to enhance emotion self-regulation skills, teaching a number of skills, including participating in a play activity, physical exercise, or other projects, receiving physical comfort, talking to a trusted adult, or talking with peers highly recommended 52.

The outcome of our study highlights that daily CPbPA is an essential implement for socio-behavioral adjustment during the first major educational transition in primary school. Our findings also support previous research results 53, 54 that active recess have been shown to reduce playground conflicts, bullying, and exclusionary behavior.

Being physically active can have behavioral benefits for children, and these benefits to behavior in primary school students are also becoming increasingly well evidenced 49, 50.

5. Conclusion

Although colorful playgrounds with varied PA during the school day can be a low-cost method, we suggest that it is a powerful tool for the accretion of students' social health in a ways that could improve their behavior in school. It should be noted that suggested strategy need properly trained coordinators and time to be implemented.

These results are interesting issues for further research; such information could help to develop appropriate interventions to improve social behavior of students in primary school. Future research should examine the longer-term effects of the intervention and the relative efficacy of the intervention components.

6. Study Limitations

The main problem researcher faced in performing this study included difficulty with participants' adaptation to a new country. Specially, they were chosen from the first grade primary schools which is the first major educational transition. Additionaly, several children from different grade levels played in the playgrounds at the same time. Also, since the number of students was small and from a limited age range, it's uncertain whether the same findings will hold for the broader population of children.

Considering that due to single-gender schooling in Iranian primary and secondary schools, it is not possible to study the effect of CPbPA among mixed-gender students.

Conflict of Interest

We have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the parents and/or guardians who supported their children's involvement and the students who willingly took part in the experiment.

Co-authors are also grateful to Iryna V. Kolesnikova for her voluntary support in collaboration with design of the study and valuable input throughout the research project.

List of Abbreviations

PA: Physical Activity

CPbPA: Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity

TI&ASG: Tehran International and Adaptive School Girls

IG: Intervention Group

CG: Control Group.

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Published with license by Science and Education Publishing, Copyright © 2018 Maryam Delavar, Iryna V. Kolesnikova, Maryam Sh. Hosseini and Nahid S. Sharifi

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite this article:

Normal Style
Maryam Delavar, Iryna V. Kolesnikova, Maryam Sh. Hosseini, Nahid S. Sharifi. Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity and Socio-behavioral Connectedness. Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. Vol. 6, No. 1, 2018, pp 9-14. http://pubs.sciepub.com/rpbs/6/1/2
MLA Style
Delavar, Maryam, et al. "Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity and Socio-behavioral Connectedness." Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 6.1 (2018): 9-14.
APA Style
Delavar, M. , Kolesnikova, I. V. , Hosseini, M. S. , & Sharifi, N. S. (2018). Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity and Socio-behavioral Connectedness. Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 6(1), 9-14.
Chicago Style
Delavar, Maryam, Iryna V. Kolesnikova, Maryam Sh. Hosseini, and Nahid S. Sharifi. "Colorful Playground-based Physical Activity and Socio-behavioral Connectedness." Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 6, no. 1 (2018): 9-14.
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