California Educator

May / June 2016

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professional development to school personnel; and in TeamUp, a staff person rotates among four schools throughout the year, providing consultation. Costs vary depending upon the location and needs of the school, with donors contributing up to 50 percent for some school sites. An impressive list of donors includes the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mattel, Disney, Salesforce, Kaiser Permanente, and PG&E. In all levels, staff provide professional development for edu- cators who want to engage students in meaning ful play. Schools are expected to provide equipment. A February 2015 Stanford study looked at six low-in- c om e el em ent ar y sch o o l s th at h a d impl em ent ed Playworks' programs — with coaches, a common set of rules, and conflict resolution tools — for two recess periods per day. The report, which included teacher interviews, concluded that students felt safer because they experienced less bullying and more collegiality. Teachers reported an improvement in overall school climate and said they had developed a new appreciation for recess time. e Stanford study suggests that well-or- ganized recess engages students in meaningful play and prepares them for success in academics and life. G I V I N G S C H O O L S A N E W P L AY B O O K Jennifer Gulick, a fifth-grade teacher at Tara Hills Elementar y in San Pablo, puts on her sneakers and a big smile when she goes out to play with students during recess. "Playing with the kids makes for a better relationship with them," confides Gulick, a member of United Teach- ers of Richmond (UTR). "ey love to see the teachers engaging in play, especially dodgeball." Lauren Kaplan , also a U TR member and a first- g ra d e t e a c h e r a t th e s c h o o l , e nj o y s p l ay i n g w ith students. She believes it " humanizes" teachers and builds strong connections. "Playing games fosters respect and kindness from working together as a team," she says. "It goes way beyond the school yard in how we interact with each other. And it makes my job a lot easier on yard duty, because it's not fun to always be bossing kids around." Both teachers say the focus on recess has made stu- dents happier, healthier and less likely to form cliques or engage in bullying. "We have found that students really would rather play together than sit together and gossip," says Gulick. Junior coaches trained by Playworks share that they are learning more than just how to play; they are acquir- ing important leadership skills. "I like helping little kids and teaching them different strategies," says Ryan Karnsouvong, a sixth-grader at Tara Hills. "I'm learning responsibility. It's making me kinder. It's helping me be a better person." has hundreds of games in its free online games library, plus tips on how to play successfully and indoor recess ideas for bad-weather days. Does your recess offer a setting where children thrive? A checklist: • Twenty minutes or more of recess daily. • Recess is not taken away for punishment or aca- demic reasons. • The playground has specific areas for games. • Boundaries are displayed with cones, chalk or painted lines. • There is enough equipment to provide active play for all students. • Students have a variety of play to choose from, including traditional sports and imaginative play. • Teams are created inclusively, by "counting off" or creating rotational lines. • Staff set positive, simple and clear rules. • Coaches stop negative behavior immediately. • Staff ensure that if rules are broken, conse- quences are responsible, respectful and related. Source: Playworks "I like helping little kids and teaching them different strategies. I'm learning responsibility. It's making me kinder. It's helping me be a better person." —Ryan Karnsouvong, sixth-grader at Tara Hills Elementary School 23 May / June 2016

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