The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 20, 2018 1:00 am

Recess rethought: Fun but also meaningful

Franke, 3 others add program

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Franke Park Elementary School is the envy of other Fort Wayne schools for what it will revamp next year – recess.

Along with three fellow Fort Wayne Community elementary schools – Harris, Haley and Abbett – Franke Park aims to make the playtime more meaningful with help from Playworks, a national nonprofit that helps schools rethink recess.

Children will still choose their recess activities, but will have opportunities to try something new, play safer versions of classic games – such as tag – and learn to resolve conflicts so more time is spent playing.

It didn't take long for Gina Dundon, the district's wellness coordinator, to realize the potential benefits for the district, she said, recalling “aha! moments” during a training she attended.

Playworks – which is based in California but runs its Indiana operations from Indianapolis – aims to ensure all children feel included, stay active and build social and emotional skills. Schools using Playworks experience less bullying and have more active children during recess as well as shorter transitions from recess to learning, the organization says.

The district's elementary education office selected the schools to participate in Playworks. The list could grow if the program is successful, Dundon said.

Other schools want the programming, said Scott Geist, Franke Park assistant principal. 

Each school got a box of recess supplies and the Playworks' Game Guide of more than 300 games. Activities target different ages, use various skills and can be played in many settings – including indoor recess.

“There are so many options,” said Kimberly James, a Franke Parke case manager who recently participated in Playworks training.

The training was made possible by a partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health.

Playing games was part of the training. Favorites included “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” a game reminiscent of capture the flag.

“They played so many of them with us,” Dundon said.

Schools incorporated some Playworks strategies this spring – such as using the rock-paper-scissors game to settle conflicts – but full implementation won't begin until next academic year.

“We're very excited,” James said, adding the staff has “high hopes and anticipation.”

By the numbers

Compared with non-Playworks schools, Playworks schools see the following:

• A 43 percent difference in students engaged in more vigorous physical activity.

• A 43 percent difference in bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess.

• A 34 percent difference in time spent transitioning from recess to the classroom.

• A 20 percent higher average safety rating.

Source: Playworks

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