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Playworks coaches teach games, prevent bullying at recess

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Bill Ridder/The Paris News/AP/File

(Read caption) A third-grade student swings on the monkey bars during school recess in Paris, Texas. The nonprofit group Playworks provides 360 schools in low-income neighborhoods fun, organized activities for children during recess, allowing them to return to class refreshed and ready to learn.

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Playworks, a nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., thinks that Hula Hoops and relay races just might hold the key to better academic performance for elementary-school students.

The organization seeks to provide fun, organized opportunities to play during recess, allowing children to return to class refreshed and ready to learn.

The charity places full-time coaches in 360 schools in low-income neighborhoods who organize games, encourage participation, and show kids how to mediate conflicts with techniques like rock-paper-scissors. Older students act as junior coaches, helping to lead activities and teach new games to younger children.


“We focus on recess and play in schools, with the idea of leveraging it to really promote learning and physical activity,” says Jill Vialet, who founded the organization in 1996.

Playworks grew from a conversation Ms. Vialet had with a principal who was frustrated by the amount of time she and her teachers spent dealing with playground conflicts. The principal was running late for a meeting, and when she emerged from her office, three little boys she had been disciplining trailed behind her.

“She starts describing how recess had become this really chaotic time and how these boys were always getting in trouble,” says Ms. Vialet. “They weren’t bad kids, but they were starting to see themselves as bad kids.”


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