WD-40 for America's Schools

How one Playworks coach makes teaching and learning easier at even the toughest schools.

    • May 11, 2010
“We're like WD-40 for enhancing school climate. We come in, we make things go a little easier, and it makes it that much easier for teachers to be really good at their jobs."
-Playworks founder Jill Vialet, ABC News Nightline, May 10, 2010

The children who attend Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock, Ark., live in a neighborhood where gangs are the norm and where it is unsafe to play outside.

"It can sometimes get real bad over here," said Alex Hamilton, a security officer at the school, on ABC News Nightline. "I'd say that 90 percent of our kids have been exposed to some sort of violence."

ABC News Nightline recently aired a feature on Stephens and its effort to improve the health and education of its students by transforming what happens on the playground at recess. The fact that kids are growing up without a culture of healthy and safe play manifests itself on the recess schoolyard, where fighting is common and suspensions are a major problem. Nightline wanted to see what would happen when the school brought in a trained coach from Playworks for one week.

Fortunately, Playworks has developed a powerful model for transforming recess in similar schools and in similar neighborhoods around the country. Their coaches, like Coach Coop, have a way of using simple tools, old and new games and lots of positive reinforcement to create an environment where kids can be kids, without the chaos. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is proud to be working with Playworks to make recess and learning easier at 650 of the neediest schools in the nation.