Playworks Keeps Play In School

October 22, 2014

Playworks helps create playgrounds where everyone plays, belongs, and contributes to the game. Coaches encourage kids to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids learn the value of fair play, compassion, and respect.  They also learn to become leaders.

Recess has been disappearing in schools.

There’s too much fighting and bullying, too many boxes of band-aids gone through.  In order to deal with this problem, about 40% of America’s school districts have shortened or simply eliminated recess – which also makes more time for academics.

But cutting recess comes at a big price.  Studies show that when kids don’t have recess, they have a much harder time in class.

Enter Playworks, a national organization with a Louisiana branch.  They have another solution: support recess.  Playworks believes when recess becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive experience with them beyond the playground.

Fifth grader Keyanna Nelson, is a junior coach at Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy in New Orleans.  She says everyday, “the first thing we do when we go outside is make sure the kids are doing what they supposed to do.”

Keyanna had to apply to be a junior coach. And to stay one, she has to train weekly and meet behavioral and academic expectations.

“We’re trying to preserve recess at every elementary school,” says Dana Greenup, the Program Director for Playworks Louisisana. “We think it’s just as important as academic and classroom time.”

“With the issues of childhood obesity and diabetes, taking movement out of a school day is just really not beneficial for the kids,” says Laverne Pitts, Executive Director for Playworks Louisiana. “If a child gets on a bus to go to a school at 7 o’clock in the morning and may not get home till 7 pm, the parents may not feel comfortable letting their kids go outside to play so then it’s more screen time. So this in some ways may be the only physical activity that these kids get throughout the entire day.”

“It’s a good brain break,” explains Greenup.  “They get those wiggles out.  They’re moving, they’re sweating, they’re laughing, they’re meeting new friends – because they’re not just confined to their classroom, and they get to learn those social skills.  There’s less chaos in the classroom because they’re resolving conflict with rock, paper, scissors.  They just love to come to school now because they look forward to recess.

Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. To learn more about Playworks, click here.