Alison Shelton | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

Alison Shelton

Centennial Academy

Principal Alison Shelton had no doubt in her mind after witnessing one week of Playworks’ Recess Roll-out at her school:  she wanted the Playworks team back.  She thought that if so much could be accomplished in just one week, just imagine what amazing things could happen if we had the program for an entire school year?

Principal Shelton’s Centennial Academy in downtown Atlanta is the first school signed up to receive Playworks’ services in the organization’s newest region, and she couldn’t be happier. As someone who believes that recess is an important – or “integral,” as she puts it – part of the school day, Ms. Shelton saw the need to make improvements.  She wanted to take recess from an unstructured play period to a time when kids could be physically active in a structured play environment – one that focused on engaging activities that foster the development of self-discipline, sportsmanship, conflict resolution and other social skills.

Ms. Shelton shared many of the positive changes she saw after just a week of having a Playworks coach on the playground.  For starters, she saw the kids who “live on the outside” who all-of-a-sudden wanted in – they wanted to learn the new games, and participate.  She said it enabled students who didn’t have the experience of organized sports, such as soccer or Little League, to play alongside the kids who did, because they were all learning the new rules at the same time.

“It basically leveled the playing field, if you will,” said Principal Shelton. “Everyone was starting from scratch – learning new skills, moves, and ways to work together to get the job done.  No one was waiting to be picked for a team – or worrying that they wouldn’t be – and the athlete and the non-athlete alike could use their creativity and unique talents to succeed.”

Principal Shelton also pointed out that the games allowed many of her students to develop necessary social and problem-solving skills.  “Some of our students are new, and many are homeless. This experience gave them a chance to interact with their classmates and work as a team, without the fear of social cliques that can be so intimidating. Perhaps more importantly, it can help them to develop friendships and reduce their sense of isolation.”

The teachers also noticed changes both on the playground and in the classroom. “We love this,” several staff members told Principal Shelton. The students came back to class active, engaged, energized and ready to learn.

Ms. Shelton also has been impressed by the ripple effect from just one week of the Recess Roll-out.  Citing just one example, she mentioned a group of rising 6th graders working on a STEM internship who were seen using “RoShamBo” as a tool to resolve minor disputes.  “They saw it as a way to get past the conflict and get on with the work at hand,” she said. “It redirected the team and allowed them to put aside their differences and focus on the goal.” She sees how their new recess experience will help them develop new problem-solving, leadership and critical thinking skills as well.

Principal Alison Shelton looks forward to the school year ahead, with many new skills to be learned on the playground and off. And we look forward to seeing her on the playground in the coming months – congratulations to our newest rock star!