About Playworks Northern California | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Northern California

In 1995, Jill Vialet got an earful from a principal she was visiting in Oakland, California. Rather than recess being a happy and playful time for the kids, it had somehow turned into the most chaotic time of the day, the time when kids were getting hurt, getting into trouble or getting left out. It was different than Jill remembered. In that moment Jill saw an opportunity to change recess, make it a positive and productive time for all kids.  In 1996, Playworks was born.

Principals tell us that just about 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 this what we want for all kids in elementary school today?

When recess becomes a healthy part of the school day, kids carry that positive experience with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

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 secret problem solver) – because getting along is more fun than fighting.

On our playgrounds, kids play hard, cheer loud and high five with joy, and it’s this feeling of peace and belonging that they carry with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

Today, we’re serving more than 35,000 students in 80+ schools in the Bay Area through our Coach program, and reaching tens of thousands more in schools and communities throughout Northern California through Playworks Pro.

PLAYWORKS for teachers and principals

Every year we survey the staff at our partner schools around the country to see Playworks through their eyes. Here’s what they reported this year:

  • A decrease in bullying
  • An improvement in overall school climate
  • A reduction in disciplinary incidents
  • More participation in academics
  • An increase in students’ abilities to focus on class activities

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


Children are actively and positively engaged in activities.  Less conflict occurs and children know strategies how to resolve conflict.  Self-esteem is up. 

- Teacher, Montalvin Manor, Richmond, CA


Playworks creates a sense of community for the younger grades and promotes our core values of hard work, compassion, courage, respect, and responsibility. I cannot imagine our school without Coach and the Playworks program he manages. 

- Teacher, Monta Loma Elementary, Mountain View, CA