By Samantha Smith, NewsRadio 830 WCCO
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Instead of spending the first half of recess picking teams and deciding on which game to play, students in one metro school district get right to the fun.
Last fall, there were new faces on playgrounds in the St. Paul Public School District when it became a Playworks partner.
Playworks is a national non-profit organization that puts a recess coach in each school. The program costs schools $23,500 a year, but administrators say it’s worth it.
“It is worth every penny,” said Eastern Heights Elementary School Principal Jayne Ropella. “It is one of the best things we have ever done. The amount of discipline problems has went to almost none at recess and the bullying incidents are down to almost none.”
The program puts one recess coach in each school. The coach creates a safe, respectful and inclusive environment by developing
standard agreements for behavior, teaching kids the rules and strategies of games and helping disengaged students to participate.
“The end result is you’re seeing kids return to the classroom ready to learn” says Thomas Evers, Playworks’ Twin Cities executive director.
“They’re having a chance to play, be active and engaged in the 20 minutes that is recess as they jump right into games and then return to the classroom,” he said.
Playworks has been around for 15 years, and Evers said 98 percent of the schools they are in want them to return.
In addition to planning programs at recess, the coaches also teach older elementary students to be junior coaches and develop their leadership skills. The coaches also lead individual game time, after school programs and interscholastic leagues.
At the time of writing, St. Paul is the only district in the state that has partnered with Playworks, although schools in the Minneapolis district have shown interest in the program.