Playworks Arizona improves the health of children with opportunities for physical activity and meaningful play while giving them social skills and helping them live up to their potential.
Partnering with over 95 elementary schools across the valley and serving about 58,000 students, Playworks Arizona provide schools with innovative ways of learning that tap into children’s innate love of play. Executive Director of Playworks Kerryann Tomlinson says playing games is an easy way to instill social and learning skills into kids.
“We have what we call a site coordinator,” Tomlinson says. “They work with everyone from the principal to all the teachers to the students in the classroom. They’re teaching them games, but the kids aren’t realizing they’re actually learning skills to how to be a better leader, how to install teamwork, how to resolve conflict and how to show respect for each other.”
Tomlinson says they’ve had 82 percent of the staff from the schools they work with tell them that bullying has decreased. She says that’s because Playworks pushes inclusion and participation.
“We are giving them the opportunity to play in an organized game setting, so every kid plays,” Tomlinson says. “You don’t see kids who aren’t playing or who aren’t participating.”
An increase in conflict resolution among students is also another benefit of working with Playworks. The kids are taught to solve their conflicts through a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. They each understand that whoever beats the other wins, and there’s nothing to fight about. Tomlinson says they are able to let the conflict go rather than bringing it into class and letting it disrupt their learning time.
Tomlinson says Playworks is always looking to expand the program. The community plays a key role, as the program primarily runs on donations. More information on Playworks can be found at playworks.org/arizona.
Jose: PLAYWORKS ARIZONA IMPROVES THE HEALTH OF CHILDREN WITH OPPORTUNITIES FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND MEANINGFUL PLAY THEY ALSO INSTILL THE SOCIAL SKILLS THAT HELP THEM REALIZE THEIR FULL POTENTIAL. JOINING ME NOW IS KERRYANN TOMLINSON EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR PLAYWORKS ARIZONA JOINING US NOW. TELL US HOW THIS WORKS? PLAYWORKS?
Kerryann Tomlinson: YES WE PARTNER WITH ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS HERE IN ARIZONA AND THROUGH THAT PARTNERSHIP WE PROVIDE INNOVATIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR KIDS TO LEARN INCLUSIVE GAMES OF PLAY AND ACTIVITIES. BECAUSE OF CHILDREN'S INNATE LOVE OF PLAY IT IS A REALLY EASY WAY FOR US TO INSTILL SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING SKILLS WITH KIDS AND AS YOU COULD VERY WELL COULD GUESS THOSE ARE SKILLS THEY WILL USE NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE. SO FOR EXAMPLE OUR SITE COORDINATOR GOES ON A TO CAMPUS FOR A FULL WEEK EACH MONTH AND ACTUALLY WORKS WITH EVERYONE FROM THE ADMINISTRATION, TEACHERS, AND CHILDREN TO ACTUALLY HELP THEM LEARN GAMES THAT WILL PROVIDE INCLUSION.
Jose: YOU ARE TEACHING THEM HOW TO PLAY. WHAT KIND OF ACCEPTANCE HAS THE PROGRAM HAD?
Kerryann Tomlinson: IT’S BEEN GREAT. WE ARE PARTNERS WITH OVER 95 ORGANIZATIONS AND SCHOOLS CURRENTLY IN ARIZONA. WE ARE SERVING ABOUT 58,000 KIDS.
Jose: GIVE ME A QUICK EXAMPLE OF HOW IT WORKS.
Kerryann Tomlinson: YEAH, SO LETS SAY WE ARE PARTNERED WITH A LOCAL SCHOOL AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MAYBE YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH. WE ARE PARTNERED WITH CAPITOL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND WE HAVE WHAT WE CALL A SIGHT COORDINATOR THAT IS ASSIGNED TO THAT SCHOOL THEY GO TO THE SCHOOL ALL YEAR ONE WEEK OUT OF THE MONTH AND DURING THAT TIME THEY DO SOMETHING CALLED CLASS GAME TIME DURING CLASS GAME TIME THEY ARE ACTUALLY WORKING WITH EVERYONE ON CAMPUS FROM THE PRINCIPAL TO ALL TO THE TEACHERS TO THE STUDENTS IN THE CLASSROOM. THEY ARE ACTUALLY TEACHING THEM GAMES BUT THE KIDS AREN’T ACTUALLY REALIZING THEY ARE LEARNING SKILLS ON HOW TO BE A BETTER LEADER, HOW TO INSTILL TEAMWORK, HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICT, HOW TO ACTUALLY SHOW RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER THROUGH SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS A GAME. WE DEFINETLY CHANGE THE CULTURE OF RECESS WHICH THEN THAT IMPACTS ALL FACETS OF SCHOOL. SO AS YOU CAN IMAGINE ON A RECESS PLAYGROUND THAT IS WHERE BULLYING IS AT IT’S HIGHEST. WELL AT A SCHOOL THAT’S PARTNERED WITH PLAYWORKS 82% OF THE STAFF ON THOSE SCHOOL CAMPUSES ARE TELLING US BULLYING HAS DECREASED.
Jose: THERE ARE A LOT OF IMPRESSIVE RESULTS. WHILE TALKING WE HAVE SOME PICTURES WE WANT TO PUT UP ON THE SCREEN JUST KIND OF GIVE PEOPLE A SENSE OF WHAT IS GOING ON. HERE YOU GOT WHAT IS IT? -- I KNOW THERE IS A REFERENCE IN YOUR MATERIALS TO HIGH FIVES. THIS IS PART OF THAT AS WELL?
Kerryann Tomlinson: YES, AT PLAYWORKS WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU ARE OUT OR YOU LOST. WE BELIEVE IN INCLUSION AND WE BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE CULTURE. EVERYONE HIGH FIVES. ALL THE KIDS HIGH FIVE. ADULTS HIGH FIVE. ADULTS HIGH FIVE THE KIDS. IT IS BASED ON SAYING GOOD TRY, NICE EFFORT. LOOK IT’S GOOD JOB NICE TRY NOT FOR EXAMPLE, YOU HAD A PICTURE WHERE KIDS WERE PLAYING FOUR SQUARE AND IN A FOUR SQUARE GAME FOUR KIDS PLAY AT A TIME. IF YOU HAPPEN TO MISS THE BALL AND MAYBE THAT WAY YOU NOW NEED TO STEP OUT OF THE GAME THERE ARE A LINE OF KIDS WAITING TO PARTICIPATE. YOU ARE NOT OUT.
Jose: YOU’VE WORKED WITH THEM AND SAID THIS IS HOW WE’RE GOING TO PLAY THIS GAME.
Kerryann Tomlinson: IT IS REALLY ABOUT INCLUSION AND IT’S ABOUT PARTICIPATING. IT IS NOT ABOUT WE ARE FORCING KIDS TO PLAY. IT IS MORE OF GIVING THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY IN AN ORGANIZED GAME SETTING SO THAT EVERY KID PLAYS. SO, YOU KNOW, YOU WOULD WALK ON TO A CAMPUS AND YOU ARE NOT SEEING KIDS THAT ARE NOT INCLUDED OR AREN’T PARTICIPATING. I TOLD A STORY AT A RECENT EVENT THAT IN FIFTH GRADE I WAS NEW TO MY SCHOOL AND I WAS KIND OF THE KID THAT WAS LEFT OUT I WAS THE KID ON THE CORNER PRETENDING I DIDN'T CARE ABOUT RECESS BECAUSE I WASN'T BEING INCLUDED. ON CAMPUSES WHERE YOU HAVE PLAYWORKS YOU DON'T SEE THAT BECAUSE EVERYONE IS INCLUDED.
Jose: YOU ALREADY TALKED ABOUT THE IMPRESSIVE NUMBER ON BULLYING. BUT YOU ALSO MEASURE AN INCREASE IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
Kerryann Tomlinson: LET'S SAY FOR EXAMPLE WE ARE ON THE PLAYGROUND TOGETHER AND WE’RE PLAYING A GAME. YOU GET THE BALL AND I DECIDE I WANT THE BALL AND WE ARE NOW IN A CONFLICT OVER THAT. INSTEAD OF US TUSSLING ARGUING OVER THAT WE PLAY ROCK, PAPER, AND SCISSORS. ARE YOU FAMILIAR?
Jose: YES, I DON'T DO VERY WELL.
Kerryann Tomlinson: THAT’S HOW KIDS INDEPENDENTLY SOLVE THEIR CONFLICTS. SO IF YOU AND I ARE TUSSLING OVER THAT BALL I WOULD SAY OR YOU WOULD SAY LETS ROCK PAPER SCISSOR AND ACTUALLY DO THAT AND THE FIRST TIME WHATEVER HAPPENS THAT FIRST TIME WE AGREE THAT IT IS OKAY. SO LETS SAY YOU WERE ROCK, PAPER SCISSORS AND I WON THAT ROUND. I WOULD HIGH FIVE YOU AND SAY GOOD JOB, NICE TRY, AND YOU WOULD ACTUALLU SIT OUT FOR WHATEVER PERIOD THAT IS AND I WOULD TAKE THE BALL AND CONTINUE THE GAME. BUT THERE IS NO CONFLICT. WE ARE NOT HOLDING ON TO THAT. WE ARE NOT GOING BACK INTO THE CLASSROOM AND TAKING THAT WITH US SO WE ARE NOT READY TO LEARN.
Jose: WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME. VERY QUICKLY. WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR EXPANSION OF THE PROGRAM?
Kerryann Tomlinson: WE WOULD LOVE TO EXPAND THE PROGRAM AND I THINK THAT IS WHERE THE COMMUNITY IS A BIG ASSET FOR US. WE OBVIOSLY NEED CORPORATIONS, FOUNDATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS.
Jose: WE HAVE YOUR ACTUAL WEBSITE ON THE SCREEN. HOPEFULLY THIS WILL HELP. THANK YOU FOR JOINING USING ON "HORIZONTE."
Kerryann Tomlinson: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
Kerryann Tomlinson: Executive Director, Playworks Arizona