With screens and technology slowly taking over our lives, and up to 40 per cent of schools in the United States reducing or eliminating recess times for kids, play is no longer as valued as it was in the past. “We got this crazy idea that somehow recess was a waste of time,” journalist and author Richard Louv says. Playworks Education believes otherwise. Instead, it creates a place for every kid in the playground across 23 communities to feel included, be active and build valuable social and emotional skills. Playworks Education is a new Oak grantee with the Special Interest Programme this year.
Traditionally, young kids learn playground games from their older peers, but with diminished opportunities for play in our society, the culture of play is getting lost. Instead, recess and break times become a prime opportunity for kids to fight and cause chaos in the school yard. Many schools ban running or tag games, some shorten break times or get rid of them altogether. Playworks provides services for elementary schools to help transform school culture. Such services are based on the idea of having a Playworks coach orchestrate play and physical activities in schools on a full-time or monthly basis. The coaches are passionate about their work, know every child by name, and are armed with a host of child-friendly games for the playground.
“Playworks has had a huge impact on our lives,” says Julie, the mother of a first grader in a Playworks school. “My son not only plays at school now, but he is connected with a boy in his class that lives down the street.” Playworks recommends that in order to have a good recess, children have enough time and space to play, that a variety of games are available and that there are simple, positive rules to follow with respectful consequences if they are not followed. This encourages student empowerment and a positive school environment.
Playworks has had proven success with 90 per cent of educators at Playworks schools agreeing that the Playworks model has helped increase student cooperation, create more physical activity in the playground and increase feelings of inclusion among students. Thanks to an increased ability of the students to focus in class, educators gained an average of 20 additional learning hours in the classroom. Even basic games such as Scissors, Paper, Rock can have a drastic impact on the environment in the school as children learn to solve simple disputes through play.
“Recess used to be out of control and a lot of people got hurt. I used to sit on the bench and do math problems to ignore recess,” said Adrian, a Playworks Junior Coach. “The Junior Coach Program helped me learn more games, be more friendly and not argue if I was out. I enjoy recess now every day.”
With Oak support, Playworks seeks to expand the number of schools in North Carolina that provide healthy play opportunities using the Playworks model.