Playworks is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit aiming to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. We do this primarily through providing services directly in elementary schools and training school staff to independently run high-quality recess.
Recess in many schools is a stressor for both kids and adults, a chaotic period when bullying, conflicts, and injuries flourish. School-based sports leagues can also fall short, excluding kids based on athletic ability and sidelining those most in need of coaching and camaraderie.
Play is crucial to learning, offering a physical release, a mental reset, and the opportunity to master essential pro-social skills such as sharing, collaboration, problem-solving, and more.
In Playworks schools, every kid can find a place in playground games and sports leagues. Kids play hard, high-five like crazy, and then bring their most focused selves to the classroom. Our evidence-based program empowers all kids with simple conflict-resolution skills and fosters a safe and inclusive school environment. Our Junior Coach program trains fourth- and fifth-grade peer leaders to model collaborative problem-solving and positive leadership. As a result, Playworks improves students’ behavior and sense of connection to school, reduces incidents of bullying and increases physical activity at recess, and develops more empathetic and engaged kids.
Making the Most of Recess
Every day at thousands of elementary schools around the country, millions of kids spill onto the playground to experience recess. Recess is a rite of childhood. It is that wonderful time of day when kids get a break from classroom learning to play, socialize, and learn the valuable lessons and lifelong skills like communication, cooperation, problem-solving, negotiation, and others.
Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its policy recommendation that called for daily recess as a standard for all elementary schools, stating that “…American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
While recess may not have changed that much over the years, the way that children play has. Today, many kids spend far more time indoors than they did years ago when parents would turn them out to play after school and they wouldn’t come back inside until dinner. Sadly, many neighborhoods aren’t conducive to outdoor play, depriving kids of the opportunity to learn the valuable playground lessons their parents did.
Unfortunately, we are seeing the impact of less play time. Principals report that while they overwhelmingly believe that recess is a crucial time for kids to develop social and emotional skills, it is also the time where the disciplinary incidents and bullying occur.
Playworks has been working to change that by creating a place for every kid on the playground. Through Playworks Training or through its full-time direct service program, the 17-year-old national nonprofit organization uses tools and strategies to ensure that every child has a place to play, to be safe and supported, discover their leadership capabilities, and have plain old-fashioned fun.
“Recess and play are the keys to childhood,” says Playworks Founder and CEO Jill Vialet. “School recess offers an unmatched opportunity for kids to play every day. When recess is fun and engaging for them, it carries over into a positive school climate.”
Visit a school that has the Playworks program or training. You’ll immediately notice a high number of kids engaged in organized games and activities. The organization teaches standard games like 4-Square, Kickball, and Double Dutch, and is consistently introducing new games and variations. As part of the program, every student at the school is taught Rock-Paper-Scissors as a basic conflict resolution tool.
To make the most of every recess minute, Playworks identifies and trains students to help out on the playground as Junior Coaches, starting up games, handing out equipment, keeping the games going, and ensuring that any student who wants to play has the opportunity to participate.
Playworks provides a full-time program coordinator, or “coach,” exclusively to low-income schools in the urban cities it serves. Playworks Training provides a variety of training and professional development services to schools around the country.