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West Valley City Journal

Redwood Elementary welcomes Playworks to school recess

Feb 27, 2017 05:15PM ● By Travis Barton

Students at Redwood Elementary play during recess as part of the new Playworks program. (Josh Rose/Playworks)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]
It is time to play at Redwood Elementary School.
Playworks, a national nonprofit that leverages the power of play to improve the physical, social and emotional health of elementary students, recently started at Redwood Elementary in early January.
Having heard about the program at other schools, Assistant Principal Andrea McMillan they’ve already seen its benefits.
“It allows opportunities for students to learn how to problem solve and communicate through play,” McMillan said.
Playworks functions by providing a coach, Josh Rose, who holds a leadership meeting in the morning with some older students where they learn new games to share with the school during recess, how to resolve conflicts on the playground (mostly by rock-paper-scissors, Rose said) and set goals for the day such as giving high-fives to 20 different students that day.
These older students are part of the Junior Coach Corps pilot program being run by Playworks where a few older students are picked to help their peers. It was something Rose was excited to be involved with.
“I liked their model of selecting a few students in the older grades…to help assist their fellow and younger grades during recess and therefore also learning leadership skills along the way,” Rose said.
Redwood Elementary was originally put on the wait list for Playworks to be implemented at their school. But with the Junior Coach Corps program beginning, Redwood was one of the first schools contacted to gage their interest.
Students underwent an application process to become members of the Junior Coach Corps and with kids selected at the beginning of February, McMillan said she is excited for what’s to come.
“It gives [the junior coaches] opportunities to be leaders and examples and stand above the rest,” McMillan said. “I was really excited and thrilled to hear some of them are getting the opportunity to step out a little bit…this gives them an avenue to do that.”
Redwood is now one of four Granite School District schools that signed on for a mid-year launch of Junior Coach Corps.
With hundreds of games in the Playworks playbook, the goal is to improve the health of each student.
“I try to create an environment during recess with games and activities where every kid can be active, feel included and also build valuable social skills along the way,” Rose said.
This includes typical games like tag, foursquare or soccer. It could also be games of cooperation, readiness or icebreakers.
The program’s structure means it’s easier to keep kids engrossed in the activities. 
“Kids also feel safer on the playground and are more willing to get involved because there is an engaged adult and older students there to help,” Rose said.
Benefits are meant to go beyond the physical exercise of the children.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed more participation of the kids during recess. This has also reduced the number of referrals the principal has received prior to Playworks being onsite,” Rose said.
He noted that Playworks is the only program statistically proven to reduce bullying by 43 percent. Rose feels they “are headed in the right direction here at Redwood.”
Granite School District has a tracking system that allows schools to track student behavior.
“Since [Rose] has come to Redwood, we’ve had a de-escalation in the amount of referrals during recess,” McMillan said. 
According to the Playworks website, the nonprofit was founded in California in 1996 by Jill Vialet with the idea of changing recess into a “positive and productive time for all kids.”
“In order to make positive change in our schools and communities, we must put ourselves in kids’ shoes and identify with students,” Vialet is quoted as saying on the website where interested schools and parents can inquire about getting involved. There is also a section where interested parties can check out various games from their playbook of activities.

Editor's note: due to a staffing issue, Redwood Elementary had to temporarily suspend the Playworks program until next year.