In last weekend’s LA Marathon, Swire Ho, who is part of our team here at Garuda Promo, completed the marathon raising over $5,000 for local charity Playworks. Initially met through the local LA Chamber of Commerce, we felt the organization had an important cause and this is our 2nd year supporting it. We sat down and chatted with Myra Petgrave from Playworks to learn more about this awesome organizations.
Garuda: Can you tell us a little about Playworks, what is its mission?
Petgrave: By most measures, our country’s education system is not reaching its full potential to ensure that every school child is an engaged and productive learner. We know that academic and cognitive learning does not happen in a vacuum. Kids learn best when they feel safe and supported. Multiple independent studies have proven repeatedly the effectiveness of Playworks to teach social and emotional skills and improve the learning environment for children.
You may have missed the December 31, 2012 release of the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement titled The Crucial Role of Recess in School. The Academy comments:
Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. Equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/183.full.pdf+html)
Playworks’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.
Garuda: What would you like to accomplish with the money raised from the LA Marathon. What made Playworks decide to fundraise through a 5k/Marathon?
Petgrave: Funds raised from the LA Marathon would specifically enable Playworks to:
- Reach approximately 46,000 children from 69 primarily low-income elementary schools in the Southern California area with up to 30-45 minutes of healthy play and physical activity every day.
- Engage 1,035 students in our Junior Coach youth leadership program;
- Train a minimum of 1,380 teachers and school staff to incorporate healthy play and physical activity into the school day and;
- Provide 1,152 students with opportunities to be engaged in safe and structured activities through our before and/or after-school program and developmental sports leagues.
Playworks is decided to fundraise through a 5k/Marathon because we are such a natural fit. Playworks uses play, a universally accessible activity, to establish new norms for respectful social behavior and to increase physical activity for every kid. At a Playworks school it becomes un-cool to exclude or ridicule any child for any reason at any time. Every child is included in play, regardless of athletic ability, academic skills, or economic background. Playworks is exceptional in delivering a developmentally-appropriate prevention and early intervention program to elementary school children. Importantly, because our model focuses on recess, Playworks does not take time away from class, but actually returns teaching time (over 21 hours per year, per classroom in Southern California schools).
Garuda: How long have you been a LA Chamber of Commerce member? Has being a member been beneficial to the organization?
Petgrave: This is our 7th year as LA Chamber of Commerce members. Becoming members of the Chamber has allowed us to network with like-minded corporations and individuals. We have also had several members of our team complete Southern California Leadership Network which has helped us learn more about the climate and landscape of our community, build professional skills, and grow our network.
Garuda: What is the contribution / achievement you are most proud of?
Petgrave: Playworks was highlighted in the May/June 2016 edition of the California Teachers Association, California Educator, about the benefits of play in and out of the classroom and how Playworks is improving recess for students in hundreds of schools across the country.
In 2017, the MacArthur Foundation chose Playworks as one of the top ten education proposals in it global competition for a $100 million grant to solve a seemingly intractable problem. Although we did not win, Playworks is excited to partner with our donors to implement parts of our proposed plan.
Playworks Founder and CEO Jill Vialet has received numerous honors, including being chosen by Forbes as one of its top 30 social entrepreneurs (2011) and being asked to speak at TEDMED (2014). In 2013, she was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, which is presented to Californians advancing innovative, effective solutions to critical state issues.) The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s leading public health foundation, invested over $32 million in Playworks during our 2005-2015 expansion period because it believes our programming positively impacts children’s health.
For over 20 years, Playworks has given kids foundational skills for success in the classroom, the workplace and in civil society. Over 3,000 schools across the US have experienced Playworks, including 135 schools In Southern California. In order to meet increased demand for safe and healthy play, Playworks has entered into new partnerships with Let’s Move! Active Schools, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the Boys and Girls Club, as well as new districts such as Downy and Alhambra Unified School District. Our strategy is to change the education system by using play to help create school environments where every student is an engaged learner.
Garuda: With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support Playworks?
Petgrave: Playworks is the leading nonprofit in Southern California and nationally, to leverage play as a tool to promote healthy behaviors, increase social/emotional learning, at recess and throughout the school day to improve the school climate. Playworks’ expertise is play, with both children and adults.
A Stanford University/Mathematica Policy Research randomized control trial of the Playworks Coach service — the gold standard in evaluation — has determined that our innovative approach to integrating play throughout the school day has statistically significant impacts on bullying, vigorous physical activity, transitions from play to classroom instruction, and sense of safety.
There are many noteworthy initiatives to improving education in Southern California. Different from other innovative approaches, safe and healthy play is accessible to every kid regardless of economic background, physical ability or academic achievement. Importantly, because our model focuses on recess, Playworks does not take time away from class, but actually returns teaching time (on average over 21 hours are recovered in the transition from recess to learning over the school year).
Playworks has been developing social/emotional skills in elementary-age children for 20 years. Recent developments in the field of education and a trend toward new indicators of success for children have created an unprecedented opportunity for Playworks to significantly amplify our impact. For us at Playworks, recognition of the value of social/emotional learning and character is a validation of our program and its impact for children.
Playworks not only focuses on play as a means to bring out the best in every kid, we are also the only organization to successfully train thousands of school-based staff to leverage play in a manner that teaches the social/emotional skills children need. School climates change because children are active participants in their own play, internalizing the healthy interactions they learn and carrying the behaviors into the rest of the day. Also important, they are surrounded by an ever-growing circle of adults who are contributing to their social/emotional development. At a Playworks school, students feel physically and emotionally safe, are focused on learning, and apply simple conflict resolution techniques to disagreements.
Garuda: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Playworks?
Petgrave: Playworks also supports corporations’ professional development through team-building activities. We know that work environments can have a big impact on productivity and employee retention. This is why more and more companies across the country are investing in Corporate Recess and/or Corporate Play Days to build community and strengthen workplace values.
To learn more about Playworks and find out how you can help, visit https://www.playworks.org/