Playworks: Keep Houston Kids Playing!

Houston’s hurricane took a huge toll on kids. What they need now? More play! Yes, four square, kickball and tag - Joys of childhood and best social skill-building ever.

The Problem

In August 2017, within a week of going back to school, Houston’s children were besieged by Hurricane Harvey. Hundreds of students and families at Playworks partner schools and Playworks staff were either displaced or severely affected. Schools closed and day-to-day life was completed upended.

In that moment, the Playworks team realized that their commitment to kids was more important than ever. Playworks staff spent weeks during school closures giving back to the Houston community and volunteering. And despite their own personal challenges and losses, when schools reopened on September 11, Playworks Coaches were there welcoming students and creating a sense of ‘normalcy’ that many had been lacking since the storm hit.

Even now, the kids in Houston schools don’t all have access to safe and healthy play every day.

This is a problem. For many children in public schools, particularly in low-income areas, what's \ missing from their lives is consistent time and space outdoors with other kids to gradually learn social skills, like cooperating and resolving conflicts. Neuroscientists and psychologists agree it’s critically important to create school environments where children can grow into effective, caring and collaborative citizens. Simply put, kids who learn to play positively with each other and to organize games on their own when they are in school -- will be able, later in life, to create clubs and organizations and movements. The linchpin is play. It is the developmental experience through which children learn how to relate, make agreements, honor structures, and care for others.

The Solution

Playworks changes children’s experience of school and the culture of elementary schools by leveraging the power of safe, fun, and healthy play. We create a place for every kid on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social/emotional skills, with research showing essential benefits to children’s development, an improved school climate, and more focused students in the classroom.

Nelson Mandela said sport can “create hope, where once there was despair.” Playworks is creating that hope on school playgrounds in Houston through four square, kickball and tag.

Most importantly, through play we learn to share, negotiate, solve challenges together, and celebrate shared experiences, and children need these skills to thrive as adults in an increasingly diverse democracy.

Support from Shared Nation will directly fund Playworks in 11 Houston elementary schools, reaching 10,000 students. Playworks staff is onsite at recess and throughout the school day teaching kids how to lead games themselves and how to resolve conflicts quickly so the game can continue. Playworks also trains teachers so they can use Playworks’ approaches in the classroom, reinforcing the behavioral norms that lead to a better school day.

We have evaluation data that proves impact. One study found that after one year of exposure to Playworks, students showed statistically significant increases in physical activity levels, problem-solving skills, feelings of meaningful participation in school, and positive feelings toward their own personal goals.

Play is a simple solution to improve the lives of children in Houston. Let’s do this together!

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds


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