Taxpayer-funded playground consultants

Via Playworks Facebook page
Via Playworks Facebook page
Via Playworks Facebook page

The Star Tribune reports that Edina public schools has spent $30,000 to hire two “recess consultants” from a non-profit called Playworks in order to make sure kids play during recess.  The “recess coaches” oversee soccer games and such in order to create play opportunities.

Edina is one of the top performing school districts in the state, so why bring in an organization funded by large foundations and $1.5 million in government grants that is focused on “low income schools in major urban areas”? (Per the Playworks website.)

According to its fall newsletter, Edina schools has trained forty out-of-school time staff in the Playworks method, these are staff members that care for kids outside of school hours.  The staff– who help to oversee recess– will report back to the classroom teacher any problems a child had on the playground that may affect the rest of their school day under the Playworks pilot program.  “Playgrounds are outside classrooms where we teach conflict resolution, leadership and collaboration,” said Meg Barrett Coomunity Education Services youth program coordinator in Edina.

Many schools have focused on so-called anti-bullying programs. Old-fashioned games, which may cause a child to be excluded, could now be labeled as bullying. Playworks bills itself as a solution to the problem of bullying.  They promote the idea that schools “must instill in children at an early age the ability to empathize with and respect their peers. Recess is one place to start.”

Playworks also says that kids can use the structured-play “to recognize and address more serious conflicts.”

Edina schools is testing the program in two elementary schools and will determine whether it’s rolled out in the other four elementary schools next year.

Playworks operates in schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul and has also provided training in the Anoka-Hennepin district and Carver County schools.  They also have a full staff and Board of Directors in Minnesota. Taxpayer-funded, structured recess play may be here to stay.