Health Check: Teaching kids how to play

Health Check: Teaching kids how to play. (NBC10 Photo)

Teaching kids how to play.

That's the idea behind a program in many Rhode Island schools called Recess Rocks.

It's organized play that benefits the kids bodies and minds.

As of now, 36 elementary schools in Rhode Island are on board, including Webster Avenue in Providence.

"They're choosing their activity,” said Alicia Jones, Webster Avenue principal. “There's multiple choices." They can jump rope, play groups games such as Shipwreck and Four Square.

But this is more than just child's play.

"Because here we problem solve,” said Allan Avila, a fifth grader at the school. “So If we disagree in class, we can help problem solve."

"It gives us a chance to know other kids that are starting the school year,” said Rexella Bishop, a fifth grader. “And if they don't know how to speak English or something, we can help them out."

"This really came about because we had survey data that showed us that overwhelmingly elementary school principals in Rhode Island stated that recess was an important part of the school day for kids," said Karin Wetherill, co-director of the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition.

In the few months Recess Rocks has been incorporated at Webster Avenue, the principal has seen a big difference.

"We've seen a huge reduction in injuries," said Jones. “Their attention to instruction and ability to concentrate on tasks is increased tremendously.”

"This definitely helps them in the classroom,” said Michael Haggerty, a physical education teacher at the school. “It also helps them because they're able for 20 minutes, everyone is active."

But there is a learning curve. Teachers go through extensive training through the non-profit organization called Playworks.

"Recess can oftentimes be one of the more disruptive times of day for kids and teachers," said Jon Gay, executive director of Playworks New England.

"Playworks in Rhode Island is really focused on teaching teachers and really empowering the adults to create a safe recess environment and then ultimately the kids will be empowered."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI provides the funding for the training and new recess equipment which amounts to $7500 per school. Blue Cross is hoping to add new schools next year.

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