Recess in Chicago

Stories from a week of play in nine Chicago schools

Nine Recess Roll-Out Coaches and two support staff brought energized play to nine playgrounds this May. Here are a few quotes and stories from the week-long demonstration of Playworks:

“I have never seen the kids play so enthusiastically before. They’re actually trying to work out problems with games [rock, paper, scissors]. How can we guarantee a way to get Playworks at this school?” -Recess Monitor

Coach Debbie Serota shared this story Tuesday afternoon:

Yesterday when I walked into the school, Ms. Angie, who supervises the K/1 recess, told me that her biggest problem at recess is a kindergardener  [we’ll call Suzie] who will not leave Ms. Angie’s side.  Ms. Angie said that no matter what she does, Suzie won’t go play during recess. This morning, Suzie’s class came out for class game time and we played Cookie Jar. At recess I recruited Ms. Angie to lead Cookie Jar, which she had watched me lead the day before during recess, and I went and taught switch.  At the end of recess, Ms. Angie came over to me with a big smile, her hands up in the air, and said, “look Coach, look what’s missing! I don’t have my shadow anymore.  Suzie played today! She played Cookie Jar the whole recess! She has never played a single game ever at recess–but she played…on her own! Coach, you have no idea how much you just changed my life.


“Wait Coach C, don’t end the game yet, I didn’t get a chance to play!” -A teacher
“The kids had a really good time yesterday. They came back to class energized yet really calm. I like that!”  – Third Grade Teacher
After completing the week Coach Colmon Burrell had one final story:

Standing on a landing overlooking the playground stands the School security guard, who just so happens to be a ten year veteran.  Mired in the ebb and flow of the playground Ms. Jacqueline has seen good times and some very, very bad times.  There she stood, stolid and steady, rock solid and unflinching.  Her unwavering eye detailing the activities of the playground, ready to intervene in a moment should something happen outside of the rules.
She’d told stories of having to resolve arguments and fights by taking children to the office on a daily basis.  She relayed to me having to withhold certain children from participating in recess in any way lest they cause trouble, as was their custom.  
And so she stood, waiting to pounce. And for the entire week of the roll out she continued to stand.  Never moving from her position, Ms. Jacqueline stood and watched  — from Monday through Friday. Her intervention was never required.  Not once did she walk a child to the office, or withhold any from indulging in the pleasure of healthy play.  She stood, arms crossed, amazed, surprised and pleased.
As I turned to leave the building for the week, it was none other than Ms. Jacqueline who stopped me with a smile on her face saying: “I’ve been here for 10 years and this is the first week when I’ve never had to write a citation, take a kid to the office, or withhold anyone from recess!  Playworks is a must for this school!
See more photos from the week on our Facebook page.

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