As we approach the last few weeks of the school year we are on the brink of a major milestone; five years of bringing the Power of Play to the Pacific NW. Over the past five years our collective efforts have helped create safe school climates with less bullying, more healthy play and more time for classroom learning.
Thank you for joining us to be part of the solution. That deserves a High-5!
To commemorate the end of our fifth year, our Board has graciously decided to reach back into their hearts and wallets to give to the cause again this year! The Board is inviting a High-5 match challenge. They will match up to $5,000 to make this our Double High-5 challengeand raise a total of $10,000 to finish these past five years strong!
I invite you to support our year-end Double High-5 challenge with a generous gift of $50, $100, $250 or more. Together we can make a larger impact.
As you probably know, I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I spent my childhood growing up in Eugene, Oregon climbing trees, playing in the parks and riding bikes around town. Play was a big part of my life and key to making life-long friends and learning life lessons. Growing up with caring adult role models and lots of kids my age was something special that I didn’t realize until later in life when I started working with Playworks.
10 years ago I was an AmeriCorps member completing my term of service for Playworks in Richmond, California. That year of service as a Playworks coach, working every day to bring out the best in every kid through play, was an incredible experience that motivated me to continue this important work. As much as I enjoy the California sunshine I felt an urge to bring Playworks and the power of play to my home state.
In 2009 I left the Bay Area and moved back to Oregon to open the Playworks Pacific Northwest office. We had heard from schools, parents, and community leaders about the difference Playworks could make for local students and decided to become part of the community.
I’m proud of the work our team of staff, partners and advocates have done over the past five years to impact the lives of thousands of kids in the region. Kids like Junior Coach Ashley. I look forward to the future as we to go deeper into the Portland metro area and broader to the rural areas of the region.
I hope you will support our efforts to increase impact by participating in our Double High-5 challenge with a generous gift of $50, $100, $250 or more. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by June 30th, can you help us get there?
Thank you for believing in the Power of Play!
Did you know? Playworks is the only national organization that transforms recess into a powerful tool for educators and children. Please ensure we create a safe, happy and inclusive place for every kid on our school playgrounds. Send your generous gift today!
Portland Monthly Magazine recognized Playworks in their 2013 Light a Fire Awards. The annual awards ceremony is a celebration honoring the individuals and organizations who make Portland more prosperous, beautiful, healthful, and sustainable—in a word, better. This year, Playworks was recognized for Inspiring Our Next Generation.
PORTLAND PLAYWORKS lives and breathes recess. Inside its headquarters on SE Madison Street, shelves overflow with bright orange cones, multicolored dodgeballs, and plastic goalposts. Impromptu foursquare games are a daily occurrence for the staff, but they’re merely practice for the four-year-old nonprofit’s real goal: teaching thousands of kids the social tools they need to play safe and healthy in the 14 metro schools it works with daily (in addition to 80-plus regional schools it services indirectly).
“Group play isn’t what it used to be,” says Jonathan Blasher, executive director of Playworks’ Pacific Northwest branch. Instead of being that carefree respite for games and sports that most adults remember nostalgically, he says, recess is now a time when almost 90 percent of negative issues in schools erupt, from schoolyard bullying to gender exclusion.
To confront that change, a think tank of teachers, summer camp directors, and sports instructors created Playworks in Oakland, California, in 1996; Portland’s division started in 2009. The goal: to create positive, respectful, and inclusive play environments for often-stressful low-income communities. And Playworks’ 20 staff members do it by taking all that equipment off the shelves and into schoolyards.
“We don’t do win or lose, boys versus girls, or team captains,” Blasher explains. “There is a common language that everyone understands, and we solve conflicts with simple games like rock-paper-scissors.” To this end, one of Playworks’ most effective projects, the Junior Coach Program, pairs older elementary students with younger students to learn games and solve their own conflicts as they arise, giving the older kids responsibility and the younger ones role models.
“Playworks has been about creating a kind and cooperative atmosphere around the school,” says Susan McElroy, principal of Daniel A. Grout Elementary, which has spent four years in the program. “All my kids follow the same rules, procedures, and conflict resolution processes, which translates to less fighting at recess and more instructional time in the classroom.”
- See more at: http://www.playworks.org/communities/pacificnw/news/inspiring-our-next-generation#sthash.A1HW5jWY.dpuf
Teachers at King Elementary School in northeast Portland had described recess as chaotic, rough and lacking organized games. Then, four years ago, a trained Playworks coach named Sam Balto entered the picture and turned the students’ play time into an opportunity to nurture common values such as respect, inclusion and healthy play. With hard work and constant practice, King students changed what recess looks like and, in the process, created a community.
Here Coach Balto shares the story of how one student’s life was transformed:
A fourth grade student named Reggie* has severe cerebral palsy. When I first arrived at King Elementary School as a Playworks Coach, Reggie would sit in his wheelchair during recess and watch his classmates play kickball, basketball, foursquare and other games.
As a Playworks Coach, my job is to encourage and empower students to interact with each other in a respectful manner and find ways for everyone to have fun. After watching Reggie stuck on the sidelines, I thought he needed to have a different recess experience.
During class game times, I discussed the situation with fourth and fifth grade students. I explained that Reggie wasn’t playing because, in order to participate, he needed other students to help him. When I asked the students if anyone would like to volunteer to help Reggie, I was hoping five to ten students would offer. To my surprise, dozens of hands went up. Out of 60 students in three classes, 33 wanted to help.
The response was overwhelming. Interest in helping came from Junior Coaches, members of the afterschool program and athletes on Playworks teams. The pool of students who wanted to help included some of the most challenging students in the school - students who normally don’t volunteer.
Every day, three or four designated students ate with Reggie during lunch. Then they went outside to interact with him and even modify games so all of them could play together. Anyone on the playground could see how much fun Reggie was having. The patience and care his classmates showed him was visible. Reggie felt like he was part of recess now, and not just an outsider looking in.
I have experienced few things as moving as watching these young students include Reggie and make him part of the community. The students who helped him are known at King Elementary School as “Game Changers” and they truly are.
*The student’s name has been changed to protect his identity.