WASHINGTON – Sometimes we all need to burn off a little steam. For kids, that can mean running around at recess. But a national non-profit organization working in a number of D.C. schools is trying to change how recess works and what it means for academics too.
“Hocus pocus!” yells out a coach.
“Everybody focus!” the students respond.
This is not your typical recess.
“I learned that if someone’s feeling upset, you could talk about what was going wrong and how you could solve that problem,” said DeShaun, a student at The Arts and Technology Academy Public Charter School. “Like what happened? How can I help you to feel better?”
If this young man at this Northeast D.C. school seems wise beyond his years, he may have a non-profit called Playworks to thank.
“Playworks is an organization that believes in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid,” said Kristen Boone of Playworks.
AmeriCorps and Playworks provide a coach at the school. Yes, a coach at recess.
“We also have a group agreement that we agree to every day: be safe, be kind and have fun,” said coach LV Anuzis. “So we go into recess knowing that we’re going to treat each other with respect.”
The kids learn conflict resolution, teach all recess games to all children, and everybody gets to play.
It’s not always perfect. We asked DeShaun what the students fight over. He responded, “Stupid stuff.”
There was also an argument between two kids for a ball.
But we saw caring in action.
One student helped console another after she was upset because a teacher had slipped and fallen and had to be taken to the doctor.
It’s not just about being nice at recess. They are seeing evidence that what happens on the playground or in the gym also impacts what happens in the classroom.
“It’s just an overall culture change, the sense of community and helping each other out,” said Boone. “Teachers have reported that they receive about 24 cumulative hours of the school year back into the classroom for instructional time where they’re not dealing with those conflicts and breaking up fights or issues that happen outside at recess.”
This week Playworks kids got a visit from some NFL players, including former Redskin Lorenzo Alexander.
“I have a three-year-old son and I understand that if he doesn’t get his energy out, he’s not going to be productive,” he said.
Sometimes in addition to get getting energy out, it also helps to hug it out.