Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Arizona

In 1995, Playworks Founder Jill Vialet got an earful from a principal she was visiting in Oakland, California.  Rather than recess being a happy, playful time for the kids, the principal lamented that it had become the most chaotic period of the school day, with kids getting hurt, getting into trouble and getting left out. In that moment Jill saw an opportunity to change recess, to make it a positive and productive time for all kids.  In 1996, Jill founded Playworks. In 2011, Playworks began serving three schools in Arizona. Today our program has expanded to serve six school districts, impacting 15,500 children daily.

Principals tell us that nearly all discipline-related problems in school occur during lunch and recess. Instead of going back to class energized and ready to learn, the kids return to class upset and unable to focus.

We can change this. Recess should be fun and energetic and safe and inclusive for everyone. Isn't that what we want for all kids in elementary school today?

When recess  becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive experience with them beyond the playground. On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs, everyone contributes to the game. Coaches encourage kids to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids learn the value of fair play, compassion and respect. On our playgrounds, kids become leaders. They run their own games and settle their disputes quickly (rock-paper-scissors is our problem solver) because getting along is more fun than fighting. On our playgrounds, kids play hard, cheer loud and high five with joy. And they carry that feeling of peace and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

In Arizona, Playworks serves 21 low-income Title 1 elementary schools, positively impacting 15,500 students every day through our direct service and training programs.

PLAYWORKS for teachers and principals

Every year, Playworks surveys teachers, staff and principals at our partner schools to help us learn more about the impact of our program.  Here’s what they told us:

  • 92  percent reported a decrease in incidents of bullying during recess;
  • 94 percent reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities;
  • 95 percent reported that students increased in physical activity;
  • 90  percent reported that Playworks had a positive impact on overall school climate;

The program has helped student behavior and therefore has impacted the time we spend on academics vs the time spent solving problems. Students are also a lot more willing to participate in lessons and share what they think. 

- Teacher, Augustus H. Shaw Jr. School, Phoenix


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout Arizona.  Learn more about how Playworks can help your school.