RECESS: A break from class learning where students within a school go outside for ten to thirty minutes to rest and have free time.
You”re seven. You”re on the playground, playing tag.

“Tag! You”re out!!”

“You didn”t touch me, I”m not out!”

“Yes I did too! You”re out.”

You know how the rest goes. There is an argument, perhaps a push or a shove, perhaps tears, teacher mediation, teacher frustration, finally a visit to the one-and-only Principal”s Office.

This situation is not uncommon on playgrounds across America. Recess has been referred to as “horror time” by some teachers, a half hour of complete chaos characterized by fighting, wrestling, punching, screaming, and madness. In fact, this allotted time has become so unmanageable and inefficient that many schools have either had to drastically decrease recess or eliminate it all together. In a Gallup survey, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 89% of discipline-related problems happen during recess and lunch; 77% of principals report using taking away recess as a punishment for kids. As a result of these issues and poor academic performance, one fifth of those surveyed have had to reduce or do away with the recess time altogether.

However, poor academic performance, behavioral problems, and health issues are all related. Recess and play in general have been proven to be critical to a child”s social and academic development during those elementary years. Most principals have said that students are more focused and more attentive after having recess.

Jill Vialet knows play: Play is her (it) Factor. Since she graduated from Harvard University, she has been engaged with different aspects of play and physical activity in the context of public service.

Before founding Playworks, Jill spent her time running a collegiate public service program, coaching soccer in Cambridge, being a camp counselor, and teaching Eskimo children how to swim in Alaska. For Jill, play is a precious commodity, one which she has spent the last 45 years trying to share with others.

Jill”s vision is simple, and her execution is brilliant. Through her organization Playworks, Jill believes that one day, every child in America will have access to safe, healthy play, every day. Playworks creates a structured recess experience for elementary school-aged children by establishing trained, full-time young adults as coaches on campuses. Through basic sports and cooperative games, these coaches create an environment which fosters sportsmanship, health and fitness awareness, focus, and fun.


In the 2012-13 school year, Playworks casino operated on-site programs in 22 major US cities and directly served 170,000 children at low income schools every day, and they have plans to expand to 27 cities by 2015.

Published by Rachel Tobias

Rachel is a writer, thinker and world traveler who currently works under the Bay Bridge for a design consultancy called IDEO, helping spread human-centered design across the products and services we use and create as a society. Rachel is a 2010 graduate of University of Southern California where she earned her B.A. in International Relations and was the President and Founder of the TEDxTrojans Student Organization (a new TEDx formed around student innovation). She has also studied Arabic, and lived and worked in Egypt studying foreign policy and teaching English to African refugees living in Cairo. Her passion is making international development more efficient, effective, and most importantly, compassionate. Rachel climbs rocks so she can see into the distance, and always wears two different socks. Always.