Founded in 1996, this wildly successful project and now registered nonprofit has found a convincing formula to transform ordinary school recess into playful pedagogy, teaching conflict resolution in a hands-on way through trained facilitators both in recess and, through its Class Game Time project, which focuses on teaching collaboration and communication with individual classes using the power of play. Playworks now reaches 700,000 students in hundreds of schools through 23 units throughout the US. Rational Games is proud to support their Boston chapter.
For those of us with vivid memories of being bullied at recess (!), the work of Playworks is convincing indeed. Four things make Playworks unique and quite powerful as a provider of games to resolve conflict:
1. The pedagogy is convincing and always fresh.
Playworks is always adding to its online Game Library with new games and exercises developed by serious psychologists and also theater pedagogues. Add to that the fairly thoughtful, professional and dedicated game facilitation and delivery through focused small-group sessions, always with a serious debrief about some aspect of conflict resolution, and you have kinesthetic learning at its finest.
2. The Impact is impressive.
While this is famously difficult to prove or quantify, Playworks can point to its annual impact survey sponsored by Stanford. The most recent results show that 95% of respondents say the program improves school climate, while also reporting an 84% decrease in bullying incidents and an 82% drop in the amount of class time spent resolving conflicts. This play has a serious payoff.
3. The funding model is sound.
While Playworks maintains its clear focus on at risk students with a requirement that each participating school have at least half its students on a free lunch, it also requires payment of up to $35,000 per school. Unlike most nonprofits, it therefore generates a revenue stream. What is more, its clients learn to value what they are receiving and paying for.
4. The community is growing.
Over the last few years, Playworks has strengthened its development program, working to engage its kids in the longer term, moving them up the organization to become junior and then senior facilitators and coaches. In this way, it is building a community with a much longer shelf life than any 30 minute recess can allow.
Our thanks to Jon Gay, Karleen Herbst and their team in Boston for all they do.
image by freepik