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Remember recess? It used to be an active, fun, safe time to engage with peers. Sadly today, recess has changed. Now, recess is where fights often break out and bullying sometimes happens. Playworks founder, Jill Vialet, witnessed this first hand when she was visiting a principal in Oakland, California, where Playworks was founded. The principal lamented that recess had become the most chaotic period of the school day, with kids getting hurt, getting into trouble and getting left out. In that moment, Jill saw an opportunity to change recess, to improve children’s health and well-being by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. As a result, Playworks was founded in 1996. Playworks has now grown significantly and currently serves more than 900 schools in 23 U.S. cities, reaching more than half a million students directly and through professional training services nationwide.
Since Playworks Texas opened its doors in Houston in 2010, staff has brought our full-time program of healthy play and physical activity to approximately 195,247 students. The program experienced a grand expansion due to community demand especially in the Alief Independent School District.
In 2014, a generous $25,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas’ Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program helped Playworks Texas reach more than 59,681 kids with its direct service and training programs. This grant provided these children with a guaranteed 30-45 minutes of daily physical activity through the program run by a full-time “coach” dedicated to one school every school day.
Coaches run a highly-functioning physically active recess . Coaches organize the playground so common rules are established and a variety of physical activities are offered. Coaches go into classrooms to provide 45 minutes of Class Game Time every other week, on average. While there, coaches introduce games in a smaller setting and train teachers to continue healthy play with their students independently. Coaches also select a group of 4th and 5th graders to serve as Junior Coaches. These students get in the game during recess for the younger students and assist the adult Coach in facilitating activities and most importantly, in making the playground safe.
Another facet of the Playworks program is before-school programming for which Coaches create opportunities for students to participate in structured and fun exercises/activities before beginning their school work for the day. Finally, Coaches run after-school Sports Leagues, providing students with a positive team experience in soccer, volleyball, flag football and girls’ basketball. These activities motivate students to continue playing sports and be physically active when they transition into middle school and beyond!
Playworks Texas says it “could not have impacted more than 59,681 kids without the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas’ Healthy Kids, Healthy Families Grant.” Funds continue to support the highly-trained, full-time, in-school staff Coaches. These 18 men and women are dedicated to serving one elementary school and all its students every single day of the school year.
Volunteer, donate or simply learn more: http://www.playworks.org/communities/texas
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