Playworks Wants Structured Recess To Increase Fun

Playworks wants to organize recess. No, that doesn’t mean the end of the only part of the day when, some believe, kids get to be kids. Instead, Playworks wants to see students take advantage of their recess time more fully — and the only way to do that is to add more structure.

To convince the skeptics, the Oakland-based non-profit prepared an infographic sporting some impressive statistics. The graphic draws its numbers from a recently commissioned study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research at Stanford, and found that at schools that have tried the Playworks system, 96% of teachers agree that it reinforces positive student behavior and 91% say that it helps kids stay out of trouble.

The benefits don’t just stay in the school yard, but translate to the classroom. Kids who enjoy their recess the Playworks way tend to bully or be subject to bullying less and allow instructors spend, on average, 27% less time transitioning from fun back to the lesson.

Judging by the researchers’ findings, one of the things that makes the Playworks program appealing is that, in addition to the great benefits derived by the schools, staff find the program easy to implement. Of the 14 schools that attempted to introduce the program to their students, it was fully adopted at 7, and adopted at least in part at further 5. How successful the program was at the school was strongly dependent on whether the recess was always part of the school day and whether the Playworks coaches, who helped the teachers initially, were experienced.

So what exactly is the Playworks program and what makes it successful? Mainly, it’s the introduction of conflict-resolution tools that students can quickly learn and easily use to resolve difficulties that typically arise. The Playworks coaches also introduce ground rules for most common recess games played by students that all must agree to abide by. The goal is to give students the “last word,” before they think to ask for it, and for those issues not easily resolved by a look back at the rulebook, there’s always rock-paper-scissors. Overall, the more conflicts students themselves can resolve without turning to teachers on duty, the better everyone is able to enjoy their recess.

Although it wasn’t examined in this study, Playworks program also offer after-school activities and even have their own sports league.

The Los Angeles Times looked at one of the schools that integrated Playworks ideas into their recess and walked away impressed. Teaching staff at Cesar Chavez Elementary School say that their experience echoes those described in the study. Their students seem to enjoy their break time more, spend more time participating in games and other activities, but are also reporting back to class more alert and ready to learn.

“My vision is to have everybody playing,” said Luciano Mondolo, a coach who was hired through Playworks.

05 21, 2012
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