My name is Jill Vialet and I’m the founder of Playworks (http://www.playworks.org/), a national non-profit that focuses on making recess a great part of the school day. We do this by both sending our Recess Coaches into low income elementary schools and by offering training to other grown-ups who work with kids on our approach to making recess a time when kids get to play and be physically active and that enhances the school climate – making it easier for teachers to teach and students to learn. I think we’re a little like WD40 for school climate.
Playworks is in the midst of opening in 6 new cities and we’re in the thick of our Recess Rollout season – basically when Playworks coaches from other cities travel to a new city to model our program at 7-8 low income elementary schools so that principals and other members of the community can really get the flavor – imagine a do-gooder version of MTV’s the Real World.
We were in Denver a couple of weeks ago, and I got this note from the assistant principal at the school about their experience with Coach Ann (our Playworks staffer based at their school for the week) – it said “I just wanted to send this along to you – a 4th grade student who rarely gets involved in recess activity and is known to be a wallflower came to my office with this note and a huge smile on her face. High five for the work you guys are doing, here at AXL this week with Coach Ann, but also on a daily basis across the country. Coach Ann has been an incredible addition to the team (literally she feels like part of the staff and its only been a few days) and the kids are raving about her. “
So here’s the note from Jasmine, the 4th grader, entitled We heart Coach Ann (it had typos, but I edited).
Dear Ms. Miller,
Our class likes Coach Ann for many reasons. First, she is nice and has many creative ideas to keep kids healthy. Also, she is respectful to students and loves to have fun. Finally, she plays games where people don’t fight and makes sure there is no drama. Well, these are many reasons why our school should have Coach Ann or people like her for our school.
PS Thank you for having Coach Ann here at school.
And Jasmine attached a really cool sticker.
I’ve never met Coach Ann – she’s based in our Silicon Valley office, and this is her first year with us. I’m not a big crier – but when I got this, I teared up. Here was this young woman, off in a strange city who completely owns – as her own- this vision I originally had of making it possible for every kid in America to get to play every day. And in turn, she’s inspiring Jasmine to step up and advocate for something she wants and believes in.
We feel really lucky to get to work with teachers and lunch ladies and families and principals all over the country. We are excited about the idea of recess before lunch. And maybe most importantly, we are hopeful that giving kids like Jasmine a chance to play every day is the best hope we have for building an engaged citizenry that stands up for things like great education and a yummy, healthy school lunch program.
*** Thanks Jill for contributing a guest post. I am particularly interested in Playworks as my school has no recess. Who knows, maybe we can work something out for the future! ***