About Playworks Southern California | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Southern California

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, Playworks expanded to Southern California. 

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 Southern California is serving nearly 44,000 students in 69 low-income schools with throughout Coach and TeamUp programs, 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 around Southern California 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 our Southern California schools:

  • 84% percent reported a decrease in the incidents of bullying during recess;

  • 95%  percent reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities;

  • 98%  percent reported that students showed an increase in physical activity;

  • 94%  percent reported that Playworks helped teach students cooperation and respect;

  • Respondents reported reclaiming an average of 20 hours of teaching time formerly lost to resolving issues from 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.


Children are focused on learning, parents feel welcome and valued, and teachers feel that they have more time to teach every day. I can say without a doubt that bringing “Coach”  to Chavez Elementary is the best thing I have ever done  as Principal. Our school has become a model for what is possible with ANY community.

Robert Rayburn, Principal, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Norwalk California


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout Southern California. Contact Michelle Serrano to learn more about how Playworks can help your school.

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