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SHAPE Partners with Playworks to Strengthen Recess

May 5, 2014

Continuing in its commitment to improve the health and fitness of Georgia’s young people, Georgia SHAPE today announces a new long-term partnership with Playworks, a national nonprofit organization creating a place free of bullying for every kid on the playground.

Playworks, with its innovative anti-bullying curriculum, literally changes recess through game play and will provide staff support and training to deliver its innovative recess model to more than 35,000 students at elementary schools across the state. The partnership is made possible by funding from the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, which is providing $750,000 in matching grant funding to help create a safer, more active and inclusive place for children on Georgia’s elementary school playgrounds.

“High-quality recess is a game-changer,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, which administers Georgia SHAPE. “Increased physical activity results in fewer disciplinary incidents, teachers see more instructional time, and students are better prepared to learn.”

The recess initiative contributes to Georgia SHAPE’s Power Up for 30, an initiative to promote 30 minutes of additional physical activity in every Georgia elementary school. Research shows a strong positive relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement. Daily exercise challenges the brain so it can grow, and incorporating just 30 minutes of physical activity into the school routine without altering the academic schedule every day can make children more alert and ready to learn.

A rigorous evaluation of the Playworks recess model from 2010-12 found that the program provides four concrete benefits for participating schools. Key findings include:

  • Ready to Learn. Teachers in Playworks schools reported spending significantly less time transitioning from recess to learning activities (34 percent fewer minutes). Thanks to the "re-captured" time, Playworks students received an additional 20 hours of instruction during the school year.
  • Less Bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess compared to teachers in control schools – a 43 percent difference in average rating scores.
  • Increased Feelings of Safety at School. Playworks teachers’ average rating of students’ feelings of safety at school was 20 percent higher than the average rating reported by teachers in control schools.
  • More Vigorous Physical Activity. Accelerometer data showed that children in Playworks schools spent significantly more time in vigorous physical activity at recess than their peers in control schools (Fourteen percent versus 10 percent of recess time, representing a 43 percent difference).

Schools interested in Playworks should contact David Badillo at dbadillo@playworks.org.