Activating Empathy Through Play - Silicon Valley

by Playworks
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Activating Empathy Through Play - Silicon Valley
Activating Empathy Through Play - Silicon Valley
Activating Empathy Through Play - Silicon Valley

Project Report | Aug 8, 2017
A positive playground story from Coach Jake

By Coach Jake | Site Coordinator

Coach Jake
Coach Jake

Playworks’ Junior Coach program allows students to help our coaches facilitate recess and more importantly has the power to teach these students valuable, wide-ranging skills along the way. The following story exemplifies how the Junior Coach program can give all types of students an increased drive for leadership and creative thinking, while simultaneously promoting an inclusive recess environment.

  When reflecting on the power of the Junior Coach program I often think of a student who I will call Michael. I was introduced to Michael on the first day by one of his teachers. This teacher described him as very shy and someone with a tough life at home, but an incredibly caring boy with a potential to lead. When he was chosen to be a Junior Coach I can remember how elated he was, even giving me a hug. By the end of the day, he had created a secret handshake he wanted to introduce at our Junior Coach meetings, ideas on how to map out the playground full of fun games, and even a plan to help stop bullying at recess. He was still very shy when talking in front of his fellow fourth and fifth graders, but his feeling of empowerment to be a Junior Coach was inspiring to witness. At the end of our first Junior Coach meeting, he stuck around to help me clean and thanked me because he always wanted to be a role model for others, and I was a role model for him. As the year progressed we developed a strong bond where he confided in me that he didn’t have a dad, but he saw me as his “school dad”.

          Michael began to take notes at meetings and create school signs advertising recess games. During recess, he began to blossom especially with the younger students. At Kindergarten recess he was so popular that they would specifically request him to help play tag games and solve problems. His sister was also a Kindergarten student, always beginning recess by giving her a hug and asking how her day was going. Her friends saw this kindness and looked to Michael as a brother too. During our Junior Coach meetings, his public speaking and leading skills also grew immensely. When asked what he liked most about being a Junior Coach, his answer was, “helping kids when they’re feeling down, and bringing them into games when they’re lonely”. By February, Michael was one of our top junior coaches who empowered others through hugs, compliments, and encouragement. On his 5th grade graduation I realized that at the start of the year he was searching for role models, but by the end, he had become his own role model and a hero of mine.


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Organization Information


Location: Oakland, CA - USA
Project Leader:
O'Brien Patricia
Campbell , CA United States

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