Teaching kindness and resolving conflict through recess

  1. Updates

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.

More Updates


January 28, 2020

Playworks Joins Forces to Expand Support for Youth Programs Across the Country ›

Together, Let’s #InvestInKids Playworks has teamed up with 12 of the nation’s leading youth programs to launch Be a Champion, #InvestInKids to raise awareness and increase support for youth programs across the country. Every day, these programs reach millions of kids across the U.S. and make a positive impact in their communities and the world…

December 5, 2019

Playworks named in Top 10 Volunteer Opportunities in Oakland in 2019 ›

Playworks has been featured as one of Great Nonprofits 10 Top Volunteer Opportunities in Oakland in 2019. Thanks to our fans for your support! The list was compiled based on volunteers’ and interns’ favorite Oakland charities. Every nonprofit on this list earned an overall score of 4 or greater out of 5 on GreatNonprofits.org. “My…

Indoor recess
Indoor recess

December 5, 2019

Make the Most of Indoor Recess ›

By the time winter break comes, many schools have had more indoor recess than planned. Even if some students are accustomed to snow and frigid temperatures, the weather can sometimes still prevent outdoor play. Educators feel the effect of being confined to indoor recess just like their students, but they know play is important for…