For many kids, recess is a 20-minute period to release some pent-up energy from a long morning. For many teachers, it’s a brief respite from the madness of managing a full classroom.

Unfortunately, for some, recess is purely dispensable – at best, peripheral to the learning that children undergo in the classroom and at worst, a waste of time that subtracts from the remainder of the school day.

Since 2010, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Burness has worked with Playworks, a national nonprofit that advocates for the power of play to bring out the best in every child. Through the use of full-time coaches and training programs for schools and youth organizations, Playworks brings recess and healthy play to hundreds of low-income schools nationwide.

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Last month, Playworks was invited to speak at a Department of Education briefing on the link between physical activity and school climate. Junior coaches also led ice breaker games for forum attendees to demonstrate the model hands on.

Playworks DOE

The ties between play and school climate are clear. New research released last month by Stanford University, based on observing schools implementing Playworks, found that positive recess climates were formed through meaningful play and physical activity. These environments offered new opportunities for student engagement, conflict resolution, social skill development, and physical and emotional safety.

While most school climate research focuses on what happens in the classroom, we know now that what happens in the playground can be just as – if not more – important to creating safer, healthier school environments.

To learn more, watch Playworks CEO Jill Vialet’s TEDMED talk.