Recess at Malley Drive Elementary School in Northglenn may look a little different than other schools. Instead of 15 minutes of chaos, students are working together playing organized games, giving each other high fives and encouraging one another to …
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Recess at Malley Drive Elementary School in Northglenn may look a little different than other schools. Instead of 15 minutes of chaos, students are working together playing organized games, giving each other high fives and encouraging one another to do their best.
This kind of behavior on the playground is possible through a program called Playworks, which is a national nonprofit program that places a coach in a school who coordinates recess activities that promote inclusion and foster team building, conflict resolution and compromise skills. This is the second year Malley Drive has had a full-time Playworks coach in the school and according to principal Anne Wesley, the program has made a big difference.
After losing an assistant principal to budget cuts, Wesley said she was spending the hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. dealing with playground issues. Whether it was girl drama, or fights, Wesley was handling problems during recess, rather than in the classroom. But with the help of Playworks, that’s changed.
“Playworks has really helped me as an administrator because the amount of playground issues that end up in the office have been reduced tremendously,” she said. “Now I’m able to spend that time in the classrooms or meeting with teachers to do the work that moves us forward academically.”
Malley Drive’s Playworks coach is Ashley Cunningham. She not only coordinates recess activities that promote safe play, but she also spends time in the classrooms teaching games and coordinates the junior coach leadership program, which teaches a group of fourth and fifth graders how to be leaders on the playground. Program director Brad Riley said the junior coach program is a great opportunity for students to take on a leadership role in their school.
“The junior coaches’ jobs are to run recess. They are an extension of the coach on the playground,” Riley said. “They really love it. They’re able to promote safe, respectful play with their peers. There’s definitely a lot of high fives and encouragement on the playground.”
Wesley’s initial drive to integrate Playworks into Malley Drive was an effort to create a niche in her school. Because of the location of the school, Wesley was losing students and families to specialty schools in the area like The Studio School and STEM Magnet Lab School. Now with the Playworks program, Wesley said she’s able to provide something unique to families.
And for Coach Cunningham, spending her days in Malley Drive is just what she hoped for in a career.
“My passion is kids and to be able to get out here in an informal setting and connect with the kids, bond with them and teach them life skills is an amazing opportunity,” Cunningham said. “Seeing them come and smile every day is just great.”
For more information about Playworks, visit www.playworks.org.
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