Introducing Playworks New England

  1. Updates

Remember recess? It’s changed! And, so has Playworks Massachusetts. The regional nonprofit that serves 35,000 Massachusetts youth is expanding to Playworks New England, extending its programs and services to elementary schools across Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than seven percent of all students admit to skipping school due to fear of physical and verbal bullying. In addition, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Despite these startling statistics, nearly half of all school districts in the region have either completely eliminated or reduced allocated time for recess in the last decade. Many educators view recess as the most problematic part of the school day due to staffing, space, and student discipline issues. Consequently, recess is undervalued as districts focus on programming believed to maximize academic success, such as the core curriculum and state test preparations.

Playworks New England is leading the regional recess revolution. Entering its 11th year, the nonprofit, which is part of a national organization, brings play and youth development programming into schools during recess as a means to improve the health and well-being of children and to enhance learning through the power of play.

In partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Jane’s Trust, the New Balance Foundation, The Boston Foundation, and the Highland Street Foundation, Playworks programming will expand into Rhode Island and New Hampshire during the spring of 2017. Specifically, Playworks will enter 36 elementary schools throughout Rhode Island and 20 elementary schools across New Hampshire. The expansion will give Playworks the opportunity to work with an additional 15,000 students during the 2016 – 2017 school year. Nationally, Playworks serves more than 1,800 schools in 23 cities and reaches more than 900,000 students.

Through statewide direct-service programs and professional development training, Playworks New England integrates social and emotional lessons into organized activities during recess. The nonprofit places full-time coaches to facilitate activities in schools where 50 percent of the student population is considered high need. Personalized training is offered to faculty and staff in all other schools to implement Playworks programming independently. Programming includes using games as a means of problem-solving within the classroom, junior coaching that teaches leadership skills to youth, recess sessions that promote conflict resolution, exercise and fun, and afterschool interscholastic leagues that teach youth the components of team sports.

The results speak for themselves. After 20 minutes of play, the transition from recess to the classroom is faster, saving five to seven minutes per day of learning time which equates to 20 instructional hours per school year. Playworks’ partner schools see a 43 percent decrease in bullying and discipline issues, a 20 percent increase in students reporting feeling safer, a 43 percent increase in vigorous physical activity, and a 34 percent increase in reclaimed, valuable learning time.

“Our expansion efforts into New Hampshire and Rhode Island are integral to our regional aim of serving 200,000 children in 400 elementary schools by 2020,” says Jonathan Gay, executive director of Playworks New England. “We are lucky to have established partnerships in Rhode Island and New Hampshire to make this expansion possible. Playworks knows that every child deserves the opportunity to have safe and healthy play in school every day. Our expansion into New Hampshire and Rhode Island is the first step to make this possible.”

Since its founding, Playworks Massachusetts has grown from seven to 75 elementary schools and serves 35,000 students in Massachusetts. Now as Playworks New England, the nonprofit aims to bring programming and services to approximately 50 schools in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. To date, the nonprofit has served 160,000 youth. For 10 years, the New Balance Foundation has helped to energize education alongside Playworks New England and is the nonprofit’s premier movement-building partner.


About Playworks New England

Playworks New England is a regional branch of a national nonprofit working to bring play and physical activity into elementary schools as a means to improve the health and well-being of children and to enhance learning. Through onsite, direct-service coaching and training of school faculty and staff, Playworks integrates physical activity and social and emotional learning into organized activities during recess to create a space where students feel included, are active, and build valuable social and emotional skills needed to thrive in the classroom and beyond. Entering its 11th year, Playworks New England serves 50,000 students in 100 elementary schools across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To date, the nonprofit has served 160,000 youth.

About New Balance Foundation

Since 1981, the New Balance Foundation has served a deeply held mission: to support charitable organizations whose humanitarian efforts work for the betterment of our children and communities. The heart of the focus of the Foundation is the prevention of childhood obesity.

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Principal Coleen Smith
Principal Coleen Smith

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