When you send kids outside to play at recess, they know
what to do, right?
They know to be active, have a good time, include
everyone else in the game?
School, a Sitka school that teaches about 250 preschool through first-grade
students, started a structured recess program in the fall of 2013 because staff
realized that not all children knew what to do on the playground, or how to
start up games with other kids. Ramon Quevedo, student success coordinator with
the Sitka School
District, said most of the referrals to the principal’s office came from conflicts
on the playground. Conflicts that started on the playground would come
into the classroom, making it difficult for the children to learn, he said.
To help children play and reduce behavior problems, Sitka
used federal grant funding to hire a nonprofit organization called Playworks to visit the Sitka school and
help staff and students start organized play. By the end of the 2013-14 school
year, Baranof saw a 50 percent reduction in playground-related behavior
referrals, Quevedo said.
mission is that every child can play, every day. “On our playgrounds,
everyone plays, everyone belongs and everyone contributes to the game,” said
the Playworks website. Staff from Playworks visit schools like Baranof
Elementary to train school staff on how to run an organized recess program and
teach safe games that any child is able to play.
Quevedo said the Playworks rules on the playground are
simple: “Be respectful. Be safe. Have fun.”
Kids are encouraged to make new friends while they are
learning new games, he said. Playworks uses simple tools like
rock-paper-scissors to help children settle conflicts. Playworks encourages
adults on the playground to get out and play with the kids, not just stand and
When recess is over, a staff member blows a whistle and
everyone stands still, Quevedo said.
“It’s just an easy way for them to transition and get
ready to come back to the classroom,” he said. At Baranof, they call its
“Freeze, Knees” — when all the kids stop moving and grab their knees. Then they
high-five the kids who have been playing with them.
“It’s something really simple,” Quevedo said. “It’s
really contagious. They just love to give high-fives.”
Sitka School District is one
of eight districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention
and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for
students. Playworks has been so successful at improving physical activity at
Baranof Elementary that the Sitka School District completed another Playworks training
session for Keet
Gooshi Heen Elementary, the school that teaches grades 2 through 5 in Sitka,