In this chapter of the Anthology, Carolyn Newbergh, a California-based freelance journalist who has contributed many chapters to the Anthology series, tells the story of a promising program that emerged from a conversation between an activist trying to raise money for a children’s art museum and an Oakland elementary school principal who, concerned about making recess less unruly, asked why nobody was doing anything about bringing play back onto the playground.
Activist Jill Vialet took the question as a challenge, and from it she developed the idea of Playworks—originally called Sports4Kids. Playworks brings young adults, many of them AmeriCorps volunteers, to schools in low-income urban communities, where they organize and oversee recess periods and sometimes after-school activities. The idea behind Playworks, as Vialet expresses it, is to bring play back into the lives of America’s children. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sports4Kids expanded from a pilot project in a handful of San Francisco Bay Area schools to a national program, Playworks, that has received nearly universal accolades from students, teachers, parents and the media.