Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Washington, DC

PLAYWORKS for every kid.

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 2006, it expanded to Washington, D.C.

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 it becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive recess 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 create and carry that feeling of peace and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

This year, Playworks Washington, D.C. is serving more than 7,300 students in 18 schools with our full-time program, teaching valuable skills like teamwork and cooperation while reducing conflict and restoring learning time. We’re also poised to reach thousands more students, teachers and youth workers through Playworks Training.

PLAYWORKS for teachers and principals.

Every year, Playworks surveys teachers, staff and principals at our partner schools to learn more about how our program is supporting their school and learning environment. Here’s what they told us about our impact in our DC schools:

  • 75 percent reported a decrease in the incidents of bullying during recess;
  • 95 percent reported that students showed an increase in physical activity;
  • 87 percent reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities; 
  • 81 percent reported that Playworks had a positive impact on overall school climate.

Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research spent time on our playgrounds studying our program. They found that students in our schools experienced less bullying and exclusionary behavior. They also found that students had an increased perception of safety, easier transitions to learning, better behavior and more attention in class than those in schools without the program.


The social, physical, creative, and leadership skills that the full-time Playworks coaches instill in kids across DC is just as important as any math, reading, or writing lessons they could receive. Our school is so lucky to have Coach D.

Jordan Meyer, 4th grade English/Spanish teacher, Bruce Monroe Elementary School at Parkview


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Contact Melissa Kent to learn more about how Playworks can help your school at (443) 803-7231 or melissa.kent@playworks.org.