Today’s guest blogger Kathryn Malý is a K-8 educator who coaches teachers in Seattle. She is passionate about helping teachers find ways to keep kids academically engaged by inviting movement–like the BrainDance–into their classrooms.
All children deserve a chance to get out and play at recess, right? So, it seems awfully unfair that high-poverty schools tend to offer children less recess time than their more privileged counterparts. To help teachers tackle this challenge of recess inequality
in our city, I started to look for resources that school leaders could use to redesign recess and help ensure that all kids would have access to fun, inclusive, engaging, play. That's what led me to Playworks.
According to research cited in The State of Play
, a 2010 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, school leaders overwhelmingly agree that recess can have a positive impact on academic achievement and social development. Yet, around the country, many schools are cutting back on recess
because of testing pressure, funding challenges, and discipline problems. And, at least in my city, it is more likely to be children from less affluent neighborhoods who miss out on opportunities to play in safe, structured environments where they can practice social skills like cooperation, team building and peaceful conflict resolution with peers.
Thankfully, with the help of Treeswing
, Playworks is helping change this dynamic in our city. By training teachers and playground staff at four pilot schools in the Recess 360
program, principals and recess leaders are beginning to reorganize and re-imagine recess so that it offers more structure, safety, inclusion and high-energy play for everyone.
The day after my first Playworks training
, I taught Band-Aid tag to 60 eager first and second graders. The kids loved the new rules, which made the game safe, silly, and full of action. We used “butterfly fingers” for gentle tagging and kids did 10 jumping jacks to get back in the game after being tagged. For fifteen minutes straight, kids were running, laughing, dodging each other and doing jumping jacks.
While the playbook
and Playworks staff have hundreds of games to teach, I think the most valuable lesson they offer is how to build an inclusive, organized, “let’s-get-moving” culture of play. The trainers model this from the minute educators, parents and volunteers walk in the door of the training. They remind us how motivating cheering peers and high-fives can be when we are stepping out of our comfort zone and taking a physical risk. They model rule setting in the beginning, positive redirection when behavior goes astray, and good sporting behavior at the end. They teach tricks for quickly making teams and offer solutions like rock-paper-scissors for solving a disagreement before it escalated into a fight. The Playworks team helps the adults in charge of recess evaluate what is working at their schools and what is not. Then they empower everyone with the vision and the resources to make incremental changes that begin to positively impact not just the recess culture, but the entire learning culture of a school.
Get more out of your recess. Playworks helps all schools use recess as an opportunity to enhance school climate. Visit Playworks Training online or contact Jamie Firmage (415) 860-6301 to identify services perfect for you and your staffs' needs.