Playworks Recess Mentors
Playworks Recess Mentors

Playworks

Recess can be the best part of the day—or the worst part of the day. The Mequon-Thiensville School District has partnered with Playworks to transform recess to support students' social, emotional and physical development. At Playworks schools, discipline incidents, bullying and injuries decrease. Students practice empathy, play energetically, and return to class ready to learn.

Get Involved

If you love children and love being active, and if you are interested in making extra money while also making a difference, apply to become a Playworks recess mentor! Recess mentors foster fun, inclusive and safe playground environments for elementary school students from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. daily during the school year. Paid training is provided. Mentors earn $10 per hour--a great opportunity for parents, grandparents and college students.

Apply

Submit your application to become a recess mentor through WECAN. Please note, applicants will be required to set up a support staff username and password in order to complete the application materials through WECAN. Please also note that Playworks mentors will receive comprehensive, paid training.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Playworks?

Playworks is a non-profit organization founded in 1995. Playworks is the national leader in leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. Playworks currently serves more than 1,200 schools across the United States. Learn more about Playworks at www.playworks.org.

Why is Playworks necessary?

Traditionally, older children pass down games and take the lead in modeling a culture of play for younger children. Our experience is that diminishing opportunities for unsupervised play in our society have left kids with less knowledge of traditional recess games, less experience resolving conflicts independently, and fewer strategies for making play fun, inclusive, and safe enough to avoid trips to the Principal’s office. When grown-ups or older students in leadership positions introduce basic rules and set the tone, children are better equipped to make play work. Schools that may have previously banned running or tag, or discontinued recess altogether, are more comfortable letting kids be kids, knowing that they have the tools they need to take responsibility for their actions.

Who is actually leading play in a Playworks recess?

Everyone is leading play. Mentors lead organized games, while all other students are welcome to play their own games that extend Playworks’ culture of inclusion, healthy play, and healthy communities. Playworks believes that kids have innate leadership and gives them easy ways to take ever-increasing responsibility for the quality of play and for each other. Playworks unique brand of play fosters greater independence and leadership among children. On Playworks playgrounds, kids feel safe and included, a part of the action. Games are safe and organized. Any child is welcome and able to play in any game or engage in free- or imaginative-play.

Is competition really so bad?

Our program is centered around fun, continuous access to games, and focusing on the joy of playing rather than winning or losing. One amazing thing about play is that kids’ desire to keep the activity going will often motivate them to look beyond competition to take actions that are actually in the best interest of the larger group. Most often this manifests as self-handicapping, like switching players or adapting the rules, to ensure that everyone is having enough fun to continue playing.

Who needs grown-ups? Can’t we just let kids be kids at recess?

A grown-up standing on the sidelines barking instructions only serves to perpetuate the less-than-playful status quo. But when adults get in the game and actually play themselves, it introduces an important element of whim and shared humanity, making the play more accessible, and helping children feel safer and more connected. This is true both for kids who choose to play games led by adults and for kids who choose to spend recess playing in other ways such as engaging in free- or imaginative-play.

I’m worried this sounds adult-focused rather than child-focused. Is this just an outdoor physical education class? What if children don’t want to get involved in organized games?

Playworks recess is child-centered, and children always have choices around how and what they choose to engage in, just as in a typical recess. Three to five core playground games are student-identified and student-led. However, if students would rather play on playground equipment or engage in other forms of student-designed imaginative-play, those choices and activities are welcomed and celebrated as long as principles of inclusiveness, fairness and safety are followed.

I’ve heard a lot recently about the importance of play. Will Playworks recess at my child’s school limit the opportunities that unstructured play provides?

Playworks embraces play! Playworks cites many studies on play on their website, including research tying children’s academic success and social-emotional growth with play. Learn more at: http://www.playworks.org/playbook/studies.

What does a recess with Playworks mentors look like?

  • The playground has designated areas for games, with a playground map visible to all.

  • Boundaries are displayed (with cones, chalk and/or painted lines) for safe, fun play.

  • There is enough equipment to provide active play for all students, but not so much equipment that it is lost or used unsafely.

  • Recess rules are positive, simple and clear; for example, instead of “Don’t push,” recess mentors tell students what they can do – e.g., “Use light butterfly tags.”

  • Consequences are responsive, respectful and related. When rules are broken, recess staff discuss the bad behavior with the student and encourage him/her to think about what s/he did wrong and how to correct it.

  • All students and staff are aware of and follow the same rules. A poster of the recess rules is displayed where everyone can see it at recess.

What are recess mentors trained in?

Recess mentors have been trained on play and positive group-management techniques. Mentors have clear roles on the playground and actively engage with kids by playing, leading and/or talking with students. Mentors stop/interrupt negative behavior as soon as it occurs and discuss appropriate behavior with students. Mentors lead students to and from the playground in a safe and orderly manner.

Who will be trained as the recess mentors at my child’s school?

The Mequon-Thiensville School District is accepting applications for adults interested in becoming recess mentors. Recess mentors need to love children and being active, and want to make a difference while making some extra money. These school year positions are available at Donges Bay, Oriole Lane and Wilson Elementary Schools. Recess mentors will work between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the days when school is in session. Training will be provided on November 3 and 4, 2016. Recess mentors will earn $10/hour. To apply, candidates can follow this link:

Playworks Recess Mentor Application Information

Does Playworks recess have an impact on the learning environment when students return to class?

In a recess with Playworks mentors, students learn conflict-resolution skills and can spend more time playing, not arguing. With conflicts minimized and with greater inclusion of all students, students typically return from a Playworks recess energized, happy and ready to learn. In addition, recess mentors lead students to taking deep breaths following recess to get their bodies and minds focused and ready to get back in a classroom environment.

What about inclement weather?

The game is on regardless of inclement weather! When weather conditions prohibit outdoor recess, the same principles established for outdoor recess still apply, but games and activities are designed for indoor spaces.

How much does implementation of Playworks Recess 360 cost?

The costs associated with the implementation of Playworks are predominantly related to the training for mentors and follow-up support provided to each school recess team. The total for training is approximately $43,000 which includes initial training, playground equipment, staff uniforms (easily recognizable apparel) and on-site follow-up consultations with Playworks staff.

Our PTOs have generously decided to contribute their financial resources to reduce the district’s expenses to implement Playworks 360. In total, $12,000 will be contributed by our PTOs toward the cost of the program.

Many of the above questions and answers are taken in whole or part from information provided by Playworks on their website: www.playworks.org

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  • Mequon-Thiensville School District
  • 5000 West Mequon Road Mequon, WI 53092
  • Phone: 262-238-8500 Fax: 262-238-8520