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Better recess key to school experience

By Mary Richards | Posted - Jan 9th, 2013 @ 6:43am

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MIDVALE — A group that focuses on playtime at recess is growing in Utah. Organizers believe recess can be the key to a whole school's performance and atmosphere.

At Midvale Elementary School, kids explode onto the playground. Helped by Coach Jolley of the non-profit group Playworks, they play foursquare, jump rope, and other games.

"My goal is to get everyone active," she said. "If I see them sitting out, I go ask them if they want to play a game and try to get them up and moving."

Playworks is dedicated to making recess a better, more productive time. Coach Jolley teaches conflict resolution too.

  • Began 16 years ago.
  • Full-time coaches in 360 schools in 22 cities.
  • Mission: To improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.
  • Teaches children to resolve their own conflicts.

"The behavior has changed, and it trickles right back into the classrooms," she said.

The assistant principal at Midvale Elementary, Justin Pritcher, said the program has changed their school's atmosphere.

Administrators have seen up to a 70 percent decrease from last year in challenges with students.

Playworks Salt Lake City Executive Director Chris Conard believes how a child feels at school affects their academic performance.

"If you can switch and change the culture at recess from chaos and bullying and fighting to a safe and inclusive environment where every kid is empowered to play, it has a profound impact on the entire school climate," he said.

Playworks is in 10 mostly lower-income schools in Utah right now and reaches approximately 7,000 students. It has a playground coach and youth leaders that organize recess into safe, structured and fun play.

On bad air or very cold days, the Playworks coach at each school helps teachers manage indoor recess breaks as well.


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