About Playworks Wisconsin | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Wisconsin

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 2012, it expanded to Wisconsin.

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 Wisconsin serving 10,200 students in 12 low-income schools with our full-time program and 8 low-income schools with our Team-Up program in the Milwaukee and Waukesha area. We’re also reaching thousands more students, teachers and youth workers across Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin schools:

  • 81 percent reported a decrease in the incidents of bullying during recess;
  • 93 percent reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities;
  • 99 percent reported that students showed an increase in physical activity;
  • 99 percent reported that Playworks had a positive impact on overall school climate.


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.


I can't say enough about the difference our Playworks Coach has made at our school. We thought we had a well-organized playground before, but Coach Maddy's enthusiasm, well trained junior coaches, and commitment to teaching students conflict resolution and involving them in positive activities has decreased recess drama and ramped up the fun!  

April M. Swick, Principal, Clement Avenue School, Milwaukee, WI


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