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Statewide initiative designed to make recess safer, more active

5/30/2014, 6 a.m.
Georgia SHAPE, Playworks and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation have teamed up to promote safer, more active and inclusive elementary school playgrounds throughout the state.

Recess in Georgia’s elementary schools is getting a makeover with a partnership among Georgia SHAPE, Playworks and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

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Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, said the statewide initiative is designed to make recess safer.

“High-quality recess is a game-changer,” she said in a May 5 statement. “Increased physical activity results in fewer disciplinary incidents, teachers see more instructional time, and students are better prepared to learn.”

Georgia SHAPE fights childhood obesity. Playworks, a national nonprofit that seeks to create a place free of bullying for every kid on the playground, has an innovative anti-bullying curriculum that changes recess through game play. It will provide staff support and training to deliver its recess model to more than 35,000 students at elementary schools across the state.

The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation is providing $750,000 in matching grants to help create a safer, more active and inclusive place for children on elementary school playgrounds.

The recess initiative promotes 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:

1) 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.

2) Less bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess compared with teachers in control schools – a 43 percent difference in average rating scores.

3) 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.

4) 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 (14 percent versus 10 percent of recess time, representing a 43 percent difference).

Playworks currently serves more than 380 schools in 23 cities. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other investors, it is fulfilling an ambitious national expansion effort with the goal of operating in 27 cities across the country by 2016 and providing play and physical activity to more than a million students every day.

Schools interested in Playworks should contact David Badillo at dbadillo@playworks.org. For more information, visit www.georgiashape.org, www.playworks.org and www.AFYF.org.