Rock, Paper, Success

“We’re like WD-40 for enhancing school climate. We come in, we make things go a little easier, and it makes it that much easier for teachers to be really good at their jobs.”
Playworks founder Jill Vialet, ABC News Nightline, May 10, 2010

There’s anticipation in the air. The neighborhood kids sense it coming. It’s back-to-school time, and judging from the commercials running now, there’s no way to avoid it. But the schools that kids are going back to aren’t like the ones I remember.

Today’s kids spend more of their time in a classroom and less time playing—12 hours less per week in free time since the 1970s—according to a recent study. With the advent of No Child Left Behind, even the time spent in the classroom is much less playful than it used to be, as schools focus more closely on testing requirements. Our kids aren’t learning how to play, and, as research shows, it’s affecting their ability to learn.

Enter Playworks.

Changing the Culture of Education

Playworks is one of my favorite big new ideas in education. The team at Playworks brings safe, healthy and inclusive recess to schools. Their coaches provide full-time, on-site program coordination to 170 schools in 10 cities across the nation. That’s more than 70,000 students at low-income, urban schools who have a chance to engage in play every school day.

ABC News: Click here to see a video of the man who rehabilitated children at recess through 'rock-paper-scissors'

What makes Playworks so great is that they help kids create their own games and solve their own problems using such tools as Rock, Paper, Scissors. Kids who participate in unsupervised play are able to explore their imaginations, connect with other people, and grow physically, emotionally and socially. Quality recess and play help children return to the classroom more focused and ready to learn.

As I think about kids heading back to school, quality recess and educational outcomes are something I can get behind. If it’s something you’d like to support, donate now to Playworks. Visit the JustGive Guide for other organizations providing quality education enrichment programs. Or search by zip code to find and give to your schools in your area.

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Back to School

It’s that time of the year again! Kids are getting ready to meet new teachers, and make new friends. Parents are stocking up on sharpened pencils, new notebooks and more. Teachers are setting up their classrooms—often spending their own money for what they need.

Teacher and Sudents

Education not only shapes a child’s future—but the future of our workforce and society. During times when  school budgets are stretched and funding is cut, there are several everyday ways you can help your local schools:

Cash for Cans

As long as I can remember, my family recycled aluminum cans. We collected cans in a bin in the garage. Each month we turned them in at the recycling center, using the money to buy ice cream on the way home. It was a fun family tradition my Grandparents eventually brought to our schools. We coordinated with teachers to put bins in the classrooms. Once a month we recycled the cans and gave the money to the school. It’s a simple way to raise money for your child’s school and help the environment!

News for Schools

When you go on vacation, donate your regular newspaper to a local school. Teachers use the papers for in-class education and to promote literacy. If you live in the California Bay Area, you can set up a donation by calling 1-866-444-READ. Find out more at NewsSchool. Or contact your local paper to ask about similar programs in your area.

Nominate a Great Teacher

Visit ExpoEducator and nominate your child’s inspiring teacher! Through the program, ten teachers will win a year’s supply of Expo products for the classroom. The Grand Prize is $5,000 and a trip to an NBC late night show in New York or Los Angeles. The site also features an Expo coupon for markers (you can give this to a teacher too) and a checklist for back to school items.

Make Your Donation Dollars Count

  • A $30 donation to World Vision supplies a schoolchild in the U.S. with a backpack filled with pencils, paper and art materials
  • A $50 donation to Teach for America provides Summer Institute training materials and professional development for a new teacher. For $75, learning materials are supplied to a teacher in an under-resourced community.

Pass this on and get your friends, family members and colleagues who care about education involved!