Clinton Global Initiative Eyes Big Returns From School Recess

    • September 24, 2009

Leaders from around the world gathering for the Clinton Global Initiative are turning to an unlikely resource to improve learning among low-income students: school recess.

The organization is using its annual meeting to highlight an innovative program by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Playworks that uses recess to transform school climate so teachers can teach and students can learn.

By the end of 2012, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Playworks expect to reclaim 100,000 hours of teaching time annually that would otherwise be lost to conflicts in the classroom.

“The return on investing in recess can be measured in more than just jump ropes and kickballs,” explained Nancy Barrand, special advisor for program development, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is playing a key role in funding the recess initiative. “Schools that partner with Playworks reclaim a full week of teaching time in every classroom each year. Discipline referrals and incidents of violence decline. Students report being more physically active and simply happier at school.”

Schools that have implemented this program consistently report fewer conflicts on the playground and in the classroom, and students come back to class from recess more focused and ready to learn.

“The beauty of leveraging recess as a strategy for improving learning is that it is already part of the school day,” said Jill Vialet, president and founder of Playworks. “We are able to take an underutilized time that is a headache for most schools and turn it into something that helps the entire school day go more smoothly for teachers and students alike.”

Overall, Playworks expects to provide safe and healthy recess and playtime to 125,000 students at 300 low-income schools across 27 cities across the United States over the next three years.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest foundation dedicated solely to health, sees the playground and schools in general as underutilized opportunities to influence the health and well-being of low-income and minority kids. Numerous studies show that play is essential to a child’s emotional, social and physical development. Research published earlier this year by Columbia University’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine discovered that students’ behavior and attention in the classroom improved significantly as a result of a safe and healthy recess.

The model that will be used for this initiative was designed by Playworks, a national nonprofit organization that provides safe, healthy, inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day. Founded in 1996 and known for 13 years as Sports4Kids, Playworks is the only nonprofit organization in the country to send trained, full-time coaches to low-income, urban schools. The program currently runs in 10 cities: Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, D.C.

In addition, Playworks Training provides full training and technical assistance to schools, districts and organizations that wish to include inclusive, healthy play as part of a positive learning environment.

Playworks is a national nonprofit that has pioneered an effective model for using play to transform the learning environment at elementary schools serving America’s minority and low-income children. Playworks puts trained coaches on the playground to introduce classic games that are disappearing from schoolyards, like kickball and four square, as well as new games designed to build leadership and foster teamwork.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.