Playworks AmeriCorps Coaches Collaborate for Change in Milwaukee Schools

  1. Updates

For the past six months, our incredible AmeriCorps coaches have been creating recess environments where every kid can thrive. In Wisconsin, Playworks AmeriCorps coaches commit to a full-time year of service in schools throughout Milwaukee. Our coaches create a place for every kid on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills.

Playworks AmeriCorps coaches make an impact each and every day. During AmeriCorps Week we celebrate their hard work and share stories of the positive impact they are making in our community.

In Wisconsin, Playworks AmeriCorps coaches have gone above and beyond to create new tools to cultivate respect and healthy community at their schools. Furthermore, their commitment to collaborative problem-solving has exponentially increased the impact of their innovations.

Although every school’s challenges differ, all of our coaches mediate student conflict on a daily basis. While some conflicts can be resolved by ro-sham-bo, others require more direct intervention. These issues can create stressful situations for students, staff, and coaches alike. In order to mitigate these challenges, a team of coaches and staff developed a conflict resolution tool: the Deal Wheel.

AmeriCorps Coach Mychaela Moore calls the Deal Wheel “a collaborative effort to find a collaborative solution.” She explains, “A lot of us had noticed that our students had a variety of playground issues coming up and we wanted to give them something concrete to consult when these issues arose. A few other coaches and I developed a system to help students determine if the problem was a big deal and needed an adult’s help, or a little deal, where students could try to work it out on their own. Ultimately, we created a six-piece wheel with options they could use to work through the situation independently. With the Deal Wheel, students have something tangible to help them take a step back and think before acting on their feelings.”

Coach Cassie Gherardini is impressed by how quickly the tool caught on at her school. She says, “I found that I didn’t even need to tell kids about the Deal Wheel after teaching it for it to be useful. Sometimes when I approach a group that looks like it’s having a conflict, a kid will grab the wheel I’m wearing on their own accord and say ‘we have to pick one of these.’”

After two weeks of teaching it, the Deal Wheel system stuck at Coach Haley Holan’s school, too. She reflects, “Allowing the students to solve issues on their own frees up adults and allows them to continue playing during recess. The tool also empowers students to problem-solve and gives them the opportunity to use those skills on the playground and beyond.”

The Deal Wheel’s success has extended to Playworks Team Up schools in Waukesha. Site Coordinator Jena Barjenbruch notes, “By giving students visual choices of strategies to use to solve a conflict, we’re giving them positive ownership of conflict resolution, which is, in turn, building their social skill-set for the future. Principals, teachers, and recess staff have been so excited to use it in all areas of school, specifically the playground.”

Innovative problem-solving is a hallmark of Playworks Wisconsin’s AmeriCorps coaches, and the Deal Wheel is one of many examples of their collaborative power to effect positive change in schools across Milwaukee.

We honor all of our coaches during this AmeriCorps Week in celebration of all of their hard work. We look forward to supporting them in their continued work to build healthier, happier school communities.


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