There’s nothing like seeing a great recess in action! And that’s just what happened as part of Playworks’ PlayShop at Eastman Avenue Elementary School on October 23. Sponsored by the USC Good Neighbors Grant, the PlayShop allowed principals and others from neighboring schools to get a glimpse of a high-functioning recess, like the ones that happen every single day at Eastman Avenue, located in East Los Angeles.
“We figured that would be a great school for potential partners to observe, so they can see how a school can really benefit from the program,” says Alejandra Liera, Playworks’ program manager who led the PlayShop.
The two-hour program started, of course, with play, with participants enjoying an appropriately named icebreaker game called “I Love My Neighbor.” Participants then learned about Playworks’ mission and vision and how its different service models can work for different schools. Then came the highlight—recess time! Observers went outside to watch Eastman’s recess that features healthy, safe, and inclusive play for all.
So what are the specific ingredients that lead to a terrific recess? Alejandra says having strong systems in place is key, regardless of whether or not there’s an assigned Playworks AmeriCorps Coach to lead play. That starts with a structured opening, which may include supervision aides cheering, greeting the children, and reviewing the playground agreements. But there’s plenty more that Eastman Avenue does right, too. “They have about seven to eight games out at recess,” Alejandra says. “They have clear and visible boundaries, and they have really amazing junior coaches who take initiative and help and support these games.”
Eastman Avenue’s principal is a cheerleader for Playworks because she’s seen the power of play and what a difference it has made at her school. From an engaged staff to students who have learned valuable conflict resolution skills, the Playworks model has created a positive play culture at the school. “The staff is empowered because they receive ongoing training and support from Playworks,” says Teresa Armas, principal at Eastman Avenue Elementary. “And since Playworks has started, office referrals straight from the playground have been almost nonexistent.”
The PlayShop at Eastman was supported by the USC Good Neighbors Grant Program funded by university employee contributions to support the university-community partnership.