'Playworks' adds fun, valuables lessons to recess

It's supposed to be the fun break in a child's school day, but fights, bullying and feelings of being left out can make recess anything but enjoyable.

That's where Playworks comes in. The organization creates a structured and safe recreational environment for kids, even fostering leadership.

The organization is a national, nonprofit that was founded in California in 1996. They've since expanded to metro Detroit, bringing their mission of making recess a positive, productive and energetic experience.

Local 4 stopped by A.L. Holmes Elementary and Middle School on Detroit's east side to check out the program.

Kids were hula hooping, jump roping and playing a game called "Switch."

"It's organized so kids can see safe spaces to play in, versus kind of chaos, where kids are running around and balls are going to different areas," said Jeannine Gant, executive director of Playworks Michigan.

Gant helped bring Playworks to 14 low-income schools across metro Detroit.

Playworks Program Coordinator Antoine Jones works directly with students every day.

"We try to make recess a bully-free zone," Jones said.

A.L. Holmes Principal Leenet Williams said the positivity on the playground also reaches to the classroom.

"Not only does it provide the exercise and the play, but the conflict resolution that our students need to resolve their problems," Williams said. "It provides that recess, that break from learning so they can return to their classrooms focused and ready to receive from their teachers."

With less and less schools offering physical education classes and programs, Playworks hopes to expand into even more schools in Michigan.

The organization is endorsed by the NFL, and even Detroit Lion Reggie Bush has stopped into play.

Free public forum on April 1

Playworks and the Detroit Lions are hosting an education forum on Tuesday, April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Ford Field. It's free and open to the public.

The forum will provide convincing evidence of the link between recess and academic achievement, as well as strategies for improving the social, emotional and behavioral well-being of school-aged children.

The forum will feature leading organizations and researchers of physical activity in schools, including Jill Vialet, Playworks Founder, Anthony Pellegrini, University of Minnesota Emeritus Professor, and representatives from Michigan Fitness Foundation, Crim Fitness Foundation, Livonia Public Schools and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Also speaking on the challenges and opportunities facing vulnerable Michigan schools is Tonya Allen, Skillman Foundation CEO and Dan Varner, Excellent Schools Detroit Executive Director.