An innovative new playground at Minnetonka's Groveland Elementary School is "tricking" kids into getting fit during recess. In fact, the KidPower playground -- one of only six in the world -- is keeping kids literally running in circles every afternoon.
HOW IT WORKS
The playground includes interactive games that are powered by energy generated from kids' pedaling on a bike. One game times kids as they run around a circular track, keeping tabs on their improvement. Another game gets kids to test how high they can jump.
"We're trying to fight childhood obesity and we're doing a lot at our school to keep kids active," said Kristin Greene of the school's PTA. "This is not a regular playground ... [it] tricks them into fitness."
WHY IT WORKS
Third grader Ellie Melander is already well-versed in why the playground is special.
"It's exercise and educational games," she said, adding that it's more fun than gym class because of the games. "It's pretty cool."
It's early two months into the schoolyear, and kids aren't bored yet with the new playground.
"They don't realize they're exercising," district spokesman David Ritter said. "They think it's just a fun thing."
WHO'S BEHIND IT
Greene and other parents started planning the playground addition several years ago as a way to get kids more active and install a new "green" playground constructed out of recycled materials.
The $45,000 playground is fully funded by a grant received by the Hennepin County Youth Sports Program, and was built and designed by Delano-based Landscape Structures, which has installed five similar playgrounds for schools around the world, including one in Delano.
Now parents at other Minnetonka elementary schools are exploring installing the KidPower playground.
"This is stealth learning," parent volunteer Mary Hauff said. "It's so creative. This is an extension of learning."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141