Playworks Program Coordinator, Coach Jory, joined the Portland team in 2009-2010 as an AmeriCorps member. He is passionate about social justice, youth leadership, community engagement and anything creative!
I was sold on the idea the first time I heard it. The idea of a neutral space where any kid—regardless of skill level—could engage with one another in both social and physical safety pulled me in. A space where kids could play together where no one was left out, where everyone played fair and had the same opportunities seemed like a dream.
Sports and I never mixed. I consistently felt humiliated, athletes were always getting rewarded and I hated every bit of it. Sports aren’t for everyone, but everyone enjoys play. Play can include any number of things: art, tag, crafts and imaginary games. My personal favorite is orphaned kittens and a ninja hamster. Play can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re having fun.
Put together a group of adults who don’t know each other and start playing a game
, you’ll see social boundaries slowly dissolve. People will feel comfortable getting to know each other better and a community will quickly develop. The same is so with children. Take a group of twenty-five 4th graders who have their small groups of friends, sometimes don’t get a long, have varied interests, and play a group game that doesn’t require a lot of skill level. You will see a healthy community start to build. Students will learn how to interact with kids they don’t normally interact with, and you will have neutral space to create a community. Skills like conflict resolution, empathy and healthy communication naturally foster.
In an educational setting, these skills are essential when valuable instructional time is quickly being lost due to negative social behaviors.