A few years ago, Playworks received a grant that came with a big challenge: How could we help more schools use our best recess strategies on their own, without our long-term presence? Thinking about all the schools we wanted to support, we noticed a gap.
We offered year-round staffing, modeling, and consultation to schools near our regional offices. We also offered short-term staff training during professional development days to schools anywhere in the country. But for many other schools, neither of those services were quite the right fit.
These schools were committed to play and didn’t need a full year of support. But they wanted to see that Playworks strategies would work with their kids, in their context. They also wanted training for the staff supporting recess, and they wanted job-embedded learning during the school day that involved real-world modeling and practice.
Principal Jeremy Barns and Assistant Principal Alicia Martin on their school’s Recess Reboot experience.
Enter Recess Reboot. Recess Reboot is four days of “I do, we do, you do”. Staff are trained on the core elements of a Playworks recess, like inclusive games, equipment systems, and smooth transitions to and from class. They watch and reflect on those elements at work on their own playground, and by the end of the week, they lead those practices themselves.
Students also spend the week learning. Each class learns fun new games they can play at recess. Then, a group of student leaders learn how to start and sustain those games. Those student leaders become key to sustaining a positive play environment throughout the year. Their initiative means more kids playing in safe, healthy ways, so adults spend less time monitoring for behavior challenges.
Designing a New Approach
Since 2016, our service design team has been working to make sure that this new approach helps school successfully adopt and sustain new strategies and best practices.
The team used a human-centered design approach to prototype and pilot test everything from the pedagogical framework to which teaching components and Playworks practices would make the biggest impact in a short amount of time.
This year’s Recess Reboot is actually Recess Reboot 3.0. It follows two semester-long pilots in 2017, affectionately known as Recess Reboot 1.0 and Recess Reboot 2.0, during which schools around the country experienced the pilot service and gave valuable feedback.
“We are so incredibly grateful to all of the schools that participated in our early learning through our pilots,” said Grace Lee, manager of service design at Playworks. “And we couldn’t have done it without all of the Playworks staff across the country who teamed up to create, test, and refine this service in order to reach and impact many more schools. Whoosh clap to all!”
Recess Reboot Success
The biggest question for Recess Reboot is whether short-term training and modeling on-site can translate into sustained change. While evaluation data is still preliminary, school staff and students who participated in Recess Reboots report that they are incorporating much of what they’ve learned.
At Hollingsworth STEAM Academy, a Recess Reboot changed how students play. As reporter Jackie Valley writes for the Nevada Independent,
“Students at Hollingsworth STEAM Academy in downtown Las Vegas once treated jump ropes as lassos, whipping them in the air with wild abandon. No more. These days, two children twirl the rope, slapping the pavement in a steady rhythm, as one child hops and they all sing the accompanying chant: “Ice-cream soda, cherry on top. Who’s your boyfriend? I forgot.”
The staff at Louis VanderMolen Fundamental Elementary School in Mira Loma, CA also used the strategies they learned during their Recess Reboot to change in the culture at recess.
“All the students are engaged. All the students are included,” says Principal Jeremy Barns in a video recorded with Assistant Principal Alicia Martin. “When you look out at our playground right now you don’t see big masses of kids standing around doing nothing. No, you see them playing the games and following the rules.”
“Our noon supervisors are loving it,” adds Martin. “They are working with—playing with—the kids, enjoying recess with the kids. Instead of just watching and looking just for safety, they are absolutely a part of what the kids are experiencing at recess.”
Bring Playworks to Your School
Want to know if a Recess Reboot could be a good fit for your school?