For many, it has become a chaotic period where kids are getting hurt, left out and into trouble. Playworks, an organization that promotes safe play and healthy communities, has been working to change that.
Luis Guerra, program coordinator for Playworks at PS 111 in Long Island City, helps the staff implement strategies to make sure recess is productive and inclusive.
“We make sure kids are working together so we don’t have any cases of bullying,” he said. “We’re reducing bullying and promoting a big and happy community.”
It’s Guerra’s first year at the school, and Playworks’s second year overall at PS 111. Two weeks in, he said he sees students already buying into the system.
“Sometimes, all you have to do is set up a couple of cones and you can see how kids teach themselves of how to respect the boundaries,” he said, “and direct themselves on how to play a game on one station.”
Guerra said students learn how to “self-regulate” and to resolve conflicts. One strategy he uses is called Roshambo, which he described as “basically rock, paper, scissors, shoot” without all of the “negative language.”
It’s a way to solve disputes and end arguments about who was first in line or whose turn was next.
Guerra hopes that the program can become self-sustaining, so when he leaves at the end of the year students will go to recess ready to play.
“My goal is to teach the staff and students how to run the programs themselves,” he said. “So by the end of the year, they won’t even need Playworks anymore and everybody knows what to do when they’re outside or in the cafeteria.”