This week we are celebrating our amazing AmeriCorps members during AmeriCorps Appreciation Week! All of our AmeriCorps members are getting things done on playgrounds across the Bay Area and they all have truly unique and inspiring stories. Here’s a story from AmeriCorps Coach Chris Porter:
The fifth grade class at Spruce Elementary is bright and full of energy, but the boys and girls had some challenges playing together at the start of the school year. The boys were often very rowdy and loved showing off, and the girls didn’t always feel safe or included in their play. Whenever the girls were engaged in a game, they would back off if the boys headed over to join the group.
This scenario played itself out the other day when one of our Junior Coaches started a game of flag tag. The girls were totally into it until the boys indicated they wanted to play too. I took the opportunity to suggest making the game of flag tag a girls versus boys competition. Suddenly, our arena was full of girls supporting each other and donning their flags and game faces with a sense of pride.
Before we started the game, I gathered the boys for a pep talk. I let them know that this was our opportunity to let the girls know that they are welcome and respected on our playground. I also reminded them that the girls are really, REALLY good at flag tag. The boys took on the responsibility of creating a welcoming space for their classmates and approached the game with eagerness and zeal. It was on.
By the end of recess, the girls had won the game. As their team excitedly cheered and celebrated their win, I witnessed the real victory when one of the students, whom we will call Tim, arguably the loudest of the fifth-grade boys, went around to every single member of the opposite team and gave them high-fives. Tim let the girls know that it was a great game and he’d been happy to play against their team.
When all of the kids hit the playground again after a weekend away, a huge group of girls jumped into our kickball game, something that wouldn’t have happened before our game of flag tag. This spirit of inclusion has since started to spill over into other areas of our playground and the classroom, and hopefully onward beyond my students’ time with Playworks.
Coach Chris Porter is serving his third year with AmeriCorps at Spruce Elementary in South San Francisco. During his time as a Playworks AmeriCorps member, he has transformed one of our largest playgrounds into a safe, inclusive space where all of his students feel empowered to play.
Interested in becoming a Playworks AmeriCorps member? Learn more!