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Colorado schools can use Playworks program to teach valuable skills during recess

Playworks brings structure to playtime
Posted at 11:07 AM, Oct 07, 2021

Recess is always a much-needed break from class time, but at some Colorado schools, playtime is getting more organized.

The nonprofit Playworks helps schools get the most out of 20 to 30 minutes outside.

“I think recess is sometimes sort of an afterthought, so it’s where we try to come in and make it an intentional time,” said Playworks Program Manager Shea Swanson.

At a Playworks recess, students are offered choices of different games and activities. The program focuses on social emotional development and healthy, safe play. A big part is helping kids learn to resolve conflicts. Barnum Elementary School Principal Gelmarie Ortiz-Nieves said she noticed more kids struggling with that after a year of isolation.

“They weren’t around each other. They didn’t know how to talk to each other. They didn’t know how to problem-solve,” Ortiz-Nieves said.

Playworks Executive Director Andrew Woolley said a Playworks recess will always feature adults playing with the kids and modeling appropriate behavior. She said that results in fewer arguments, less bullying, and students who are ready to learn when they return to the classroom.

“The drama that can come at recess that can interfere with learning just isn’t happening here,” Woolley said.

Woolley said teachers at schools with Playworks programs report getting back 18 hours of instruction time each year. The cost to schools varies, depending on how much coaching they want, but ultimately, Ortiz-Nieves said it’s worth it.

“Not only our students, but our teachers and staff really learn what it looks like to play at recess,” she said.