Playworks Twin Cities has received a $25,000 grant from the UCare Fund, which is a community-directed initiative of UCare. The grant supports the expansion of the Playworks program to nine elementary schools in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Playworks is designed to improve the health of young students by promoting physical activity and engaging students in safe and inclusive play.
Since 1996, Playworks has been transforming school recess by working alongside teachers, developing student leadership skills, and leveraging team play into opportunities that make an impact in students’ readiness to learn. It is the only organization in the country focusing solely on maximizing the education impact of recess and play. Playworks serves more than 300 schools in 22 cities nationwide, reaching more than 120,000 students daily.
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report suggests that raising and teaching kids today also means dealing with seemingly disparate issues such as depression, violence, and obesity. What happens in the classroom is essential to preparing children for success, but what happens outside of the classroom, and even on the playground, is just as important – especially considering that only 36 percent* of children meet doctors’ recommendations for physical activity.
Indeed, a survey of almost 2,000 school staff nationwide sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Playworks, revealed enthusiastic support for recess among principals, who see it benefiting kids both in the classroom and in life. Key survey findings include:
- Four out of five principals report that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement.
- Two-thirds of principals report that students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.
- Virtually all principals believe that recess has a positive impact on children’s social development (96 percent) and general well-being (97 percent).
“The structure of recess has significantly changed since last year. Because of this change our students now know what to do. The majority of students are active and playing. As the person who deals with disciplinary referrals at recess I can tell you that I am now able to spend my time being proactive and supervising rather than dealing with a handful of students who are having difficulty.” Mike Shepperd of World Cultures Magnet
Playworks Twin Cities was launched in 2010 and immediately forged partnerships with four Saint Paul Public Schools during the 2010-2011 school year. In 2011, Playworks Twin Cities has more than doubled its number of school partnerships. It serves nine low-income public schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis and engages nearly 4,000 children in physical activity and active play every school day.
Playworks Twin Cities has already made an immediate impact on student’s lives. Teachers in Playworks-partnering schools in 2010 reported a significant increase in physical activity at recess and a significant decrease in discipline referrals.
“Our program helps change behavior and improves the overall school climate, which leads to a healthier experience for every student daily,” says Tom Evers, Twin Cities Executive Director. “UCare shares our commitment to fostering healthier communities by placing special attention on areas at greater risk for poor health outcomes disparities.”
Ghita Worcester, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing, UCare, says, “Our 2011 UCare Fund grants support efforts by many organizations to reduce obesity and promote healthy lifestyles and outcomes among thousands of underserved Minnesotans. We are pleased to support the expansion of Playworks programs that contribute positively to the health and academic performances of children.”
The UCare Fund was established in 1998. It provides grants and staff support to projects that advance UCare’s mission to improve the health of UCare members through innovative services and partnerships across communities, and reduce health disparities for disadvantaged populations in the Twin Cities and throughout Greater Minnesota.