About Playworks Pacific Northwest | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Pacific Northwest

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 2009, it expanded into the Pacific Northwest

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 Pacific Northwest is serving 15,700 students in 31 schools in 5 school districts with our full-time program in the Portland Metro Area, teaching valuable skills like teamwork and cooperation while reducing conflict and restoring learning time. We’re also reaching thousands more students, teachers and youth workers across the Pacific Northwest through Playworks Pro.

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 Northwest schools:

  • 93 percent reported a decrease in the number of disruptive events in the classroom;
  • 86 percent reported a decrease in the number of bullying incidents;
  • 94 percent reported in increase in students' abilities to focus in class after recess;
  • 98 percent reported an improvement in overall school climate.
  • In addition, teachers and principals reported reclaiming an average of 20 hours of learning time over the year previously lost to resolving issues that arose at recess.

​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 teaches so many important life skills that work on better self-esteem,perseverance, conflict resolution, pride, cooperation, and good sporting behavior.

Grout Elementary Teacher, Portland, Oregon


Playworks [has] taken a difficult unstructured time during the school day that SHOULD be fun but often made life difficult for students and staff alike and turned it into a time of safe, fun and productive interaction...The positive behavior kids are demonstrating during Playworks time moves right into the classroom, providing teachers happier, healthier, more engaged student learners. I love Playworks!

Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, Superintendent Parkrose School District


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Contact Jonathan Blasher to learn more about the program that will work for you.