About Fuel Up Stencils

Stencil Ease Playground Stencils


About Playground Stencils

About Playground Stencils

Research found that elementary school children spend more of their recess and activity time in active play when schoolyards are enhanced with playground markings.  The Fuel Up Playground stencils started with Austin Independent School District in Austin, TX.  PE In 2011, Supervisor Michele Rusnak worked with the University of Texas School of Public Health on a pilot called the Active Play Project. This school-based health promotion utilized playground stencils to encourage physical activity. The project also fulfills the CDC’s National Coordinated School Health requirements: physical education, nutrition education and parent and community involvement. The playground stencils engage students both physically and academically as nutrition messages such as MyPlate, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low fat dairy will be integrated.

The following year, AISD partnered with Fuel Up and Dairy MAX to expand the Active Play Project and brought new designs to all eighty elementary schools. The students created games, increased their physical activity and learned about nutrition, social studies and math. 

“By teaming up with Fuel Up, all of our elementary students can learn academics through movement. The stencils encourage students to think and be active, by using the stencils to spell and jump,” Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said. “We know that students have a greater chance of building life-long habits when they start building the habits at an early age.”

Watch the AISD videos here.

Research on Playground Stencils
Research on Playground Markings and Children’s Physical Activity





Brief Summary on Playground Markings and Children’s Physical Activity

Andrew Springer, DrPH
August 7, 2012

Research from England and central Texas has found that elementary school children spend more of their recess and activity time in active play when schoolyards are enhanced with playground markings. 

  1. A growing body of evidence has found that the way we build our schools- including enhancements to play areas 1-3 and provision of playground equipment 4- can positively shape children’s physical activity behavior during recess and activity time.
  2. Playground markings represent an evidence-based and low-cost approach for increasing children’s physical activity during recess and activity break time.
  3. Playground markings comprise various designs that are painted on play areas, often using a stencil and cement paint. Playground markings include traditional markings such as hopscotch and four-square, snakes and butterflies, and activity patterns, among other creative designs.  Playground markings have been used not only to increase children’s active play during recess, but also to teach core academic materials such as math, geography and science.
  4. Several studies from England using experimental research designs have found that simply improving the playground with colorful Playground markings designs resulted in significant increases in primary school children’s engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during recess 5-8, with evidence of long-term effects on children’s physical activity behavior 9.
  5. In the U.S., a pilot study of 12 lower income elementary schools in central Texas found that children attending schools with playgrounds enhanced with playground markings spent more time in moderate and vigorous physical activity during recess and activity time compared to children attending schools in a non-enhanced comparison condition10. 


  1. Haug E, Torsheim T, Sallis JF, Samdal O.  The characteristics of the outdoor school environment associated with physical activity. 
  2. Sallis JF, Conway TL, Prochaska JJ, McKenzie TL, Marshall SJ, Brown M. The association of school environments with youth physical activity. Am J Public Health 2001;91:618-620.
  3. Cohen D, Scott M, Wang FZ, McKenzie TL, Porter D.  School design and physical activity among middle school girls.  Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2008; 5: 719-731.
  4. Verstraete SJM, Cardon GM, De Clercq DLR, De Bourdeaudhuij IMM. Increasing children’s physical activity levels during recess periods in elementary schools: the effects of providing game equipment.  Eur J Public Health. 2006;16(4):415-419.   
  5. Stratton G. Promoting children’s physical activity in primary school: an intervention study using playground markings. Ergonomics. 2000;43(10):1538-1546.
  6. Stratton G, Mullan E. The effect of multicolor playground markings on children’s physical activity level during recess. Prev Med. 2005;41:828-833. 
  7. Stratton G, Leonard J. The metabolism of the elementary school playground: The effects of an intervention study on children’s energy expenditure. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2002;14:170-180.
  8. Ridgers ND, Stratton G, Fairclough SJ, Twisk JWR. Children’s physical activity levels during school recess: a quasi-experimental intervention study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007;4:19.
  9. Ridgers ND, Stratton G, Fairclough SJ, Twisk JWR. Long-term effects of a playground markings and physical structures on children’s recess physical activity levels. Prev Med. 2007;44(5):393-7.

Springer A, Kelder SH, Ranjit N, Walker J, Chow M, Tanguturi Y.  Active Play Project: Promoting Children’s Physical Activity during Recess and Activity Break Time (Final Project Report).  Submitted to Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.  May 16, 2011.

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