About Playworks Michigan | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Michigan

PLAYWORKS for kids.

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 2010, it expanded to Michigan.

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 Michigan is serving 6,500 students in 12 low-income schools with our full-time program in Detroit. We’re also reaching thousands more students, teachers and youth workers across Michigan through Playworks Pro.

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 about Playworks in our Michigan schools:

  • 96% of staff reported an increase in intensity of student physical activity during recess

  • 95% of staff reported an increase in the level of cooperation among students during recess.

  • 85% of staff reported a decrease in the number of bullying incidents during recess.

  • 96% of staff reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities in the classroom.

  • 79% of staff reported a decrease in disruptive events in the classroom.


 I feel the program is outstanding from the top down. We have an incredible, dedicated and supportive coach who is an integral part of our school family. I love the program and am always bragging to other schools about the supportive partnership we have created. Thank you for doing what you do!

Dina Rocheleau, Principal, Roosevelt Primary School


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.

Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout the area. Contact Angela Rogensues to learn more about the program that will work for you