In 1996, Jill Vialet was sitting across from a principal of an elementary school in Oakland. The principal looked haggard, emerging from an earlier meeting trailed by three 5th grade boys. The principal launched into a tirade about… recess.
She was tired of seeing the same kids in her office every day, hauled in for fighting on the playground. These weren’t bad kids, the principal insisted. They just were using their powers unwisely on the playground. Meanwhile, her teachers looked for any excuse — sometimes literally hiding — to avoid recess so they wouldn’t have to confront the inevitable outbreak of chaos.
Shortly after that meeting, Vialet founded Sports4Kids, now Playworks. Our goal: transform recess and the school day with safe and healthy play so teachers can teach and kids can learn.
Today, recess on our playgrounds is a lot more fun. There are games going on where previously the space was unused or chaotic. There are fewer kids on the sidelines. Kids play together — boys with girls, girls with boys. They’re active, and you see a lot of high fives and hear a lot of positive language. On our playgrounds, kids resolve those little issues by simply using Rock-Paper-Scissors. Every kid plays.
Playworks is the only nonprofit organization in the country providing trained, full-time coaches focused on recess to hundreds of low-income schools in major urban areas. We also provide training and technical assistance to schools, districts and youth organizations that want to ensure that every kid plays - safely, inclusively and with joy.
Principals and teachers at our schools want us back every year, telling us that that disciplinary issues are down and engagement and participation in the classroom is up -- dramatically. They tell us there’s more community at their schools with kids playing outside their normal groups. And they tell us that there’s more time for students to learn because teachers spend less time transitioning from recess to the classroom, and fewer conflicts spilling into it. In fact, around the country our teachers tell us they get back around 20 hours in recovered teaching time.
They tell us that the safe and healthy play Playworks brings to schools helps students succeed in the classroom — and in life. Playworks for every kid.