Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A nonprofit group is engineering a recess revolution at schools across the country, including nine in the Twin Cities.
The group, called Playworks, believes recess done differently can improve kids’ grades and cut down on bullying. Playworks provides funds for schools to implement their recess model.
The model centers around kids playing organized, classic playground games like capture the flag, kickball and four square. The result: participation in physical activity during recess is up dramatically.
It’s not a “let everyone outside and do their own thing” kind of recess. Instead, kids are urged by a recess Coach to play organized games. Fewer kids are getting left out, which means less bullying.
At recess at Northrop Elementary, there is a kickball game, capture the flag and kids linking up for that very old school game of Four Square.
“Haven’t played four square in schools in Minneapolis in 25 years. They have not played four square forever. That’s something that has come back,” said Principal Ray Aponte.
Aponte says kids who didn’t used to be active are now taking part
“The physical activity has just sky rocketed,” said Aponte.
The benefits in the classroom have been dramatic, too. Aponte says after participating in physical activity with others, kids have better self-esteem and are able to focus.
“They are ready to learn and they are ready to get down to business,” said Aponte.
Running the show at the elementary school’s recess is recess coach Karen Cave.
“I have seen a huge decrease in bullying since the beginning of the year. There were a lot you can’t play this , now I see a lot of kids inviting other kids to play,” said Cave.
The kids admit it’s different.
“It’s more organized a lot more than last year, last year we could do whatever we want,” said fourth-grader Owen Guindon.
But he gives the new program a thumbs up.
“Personally, I enjoy it,” he said.
The Playworks program also teaches kids how to resolve conflicts amongst themselves both on and off the playgrounds. One of the tools several teachers said was the most successful was the age-old, “rock, paper, scissors.”