As a kid, Claire Collins loved recess. It was her time during the school day where she could play games with her peers, try new things, and imagine what life would be like as an adult.
However, recess for kids today is different. Kids aren’t always playing, and conflicts that arise on the playground often carry into the classroom. Now, as a coach for Playworks New England, Collins is working to restore recess to what she remembers, providing kids with access to safe and healthy play every day.
Collins works full-time with a diverse student population at the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester. During school, she creates lesson plans for class game time and runs seven 30-minute recesses a day. She leads games to get kids moving and working together to achieve shared goals. After school, she helps 4th and 5th graders to become leaders through the Playworks Junior Coach program and helps girls to get in the game as a coach for Playworks’ girls’ basketball league. In school, Collins is a consistent adult role model who has helped to transform the school into an inclusive and fun community.
“The majority of my students are first or second generation Americans with families hailing from Ireland to Cape Verde to the Caribbean islands, and so for many students English is their second language,” says Collins. “However, play is a universal language that allows students to connect and learn from one another. I can’t think of a better teacher than play to help them develop social-emotional skills such as empathy, collaboration, and conflict resolution that are needed to be successful in the classroom, workforce, and beyond.”
As a Playworks coach, Collins receives weekly trainings to increase her knowledge of games and activities, navigate challenges on the playground, and share best practices to engage students and school staff of all backgrounds. She participates in workshops to build her own leadership and empathy skills and gets hands-on teaching experience working with kids to make an impact in her school community.
“It is my job to ensure my students have the resources and opportunities needed to play during the school day,” says Collins. “Playworks provides coaches with an incredible number of games, activities, and resources to facilitate programming and to really connect with and make an impact for our students and school communities at large. It’s a very supportive environment.”
Currently, Playworks New England is seeking more Playworks AmeriCorps Coaches, like Claire, to serve in elementary schools across Massachusetts. At Playworks New England, full-time AmeriCorps members commit to serving at least 1,700 hours, which is one full school year, starting in August. The position requires 40+ hours of work per week with some nights and weekends dedicated to sport leagues and community engagement events.
“As a Playworks coach, you get a lot of hands-on teaching experiences without jumping into a full classroom teacher role,” says Collins, who graduated from Harvard University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in history. “Not only do you get the support and network of a national nonprofit, the rewards of the job are the smiles and growth you see in your students. That is why I have decided to return as a Playworks coach and am already planning new recess experiences for the 2018-2019 school year!”
To join the play movement and become a Playworks AmeriCorps member through the Massachusetts Service Alliance, visit: https://www.playworks.org/about/careers/americorps/.