Originally published April 19, 2019 in the Johnston Sunrise.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), Playworks New England and the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) have added the first Johnston school to their roster of schools participating in the statewide #RecessRocksinRI initiative.
Barnes Elementary School joins a group of 80 total #RecessRocksinRI schools increasing physical activity and building social/emotional skills through the power of play.
“BCBSRI has reached a milestone this year with its #RecessRocksinRI initiative – a record-breaking 25 Rhode Island elementary schools are participating in this year’s class, bringing us to an impressive 80 schools in total across the state who are part of the program,” said Carolyn Belisle, BCBSRI managing director of community relations. “This new 80 school milestone is a nod to our 80th anniversary. Today, we are more committed than ever to continuing our expansion of the #RecessRocksinRI program to drive long-term health and wellness for Rhode Island children.”
Barnes Elementary School in Johnston was selected as part of an application process coordinated through RIHSC. This school will receive Recess Implementation training: a specialized professional development program designed to help schools create a high-functioning recess and increase daily physical activity.
At a two-day training, school staff map out their play spaces and review how they use play equipment. They explore new twists on old games and new strategies to avoid conflict – like using rock, paper, scissors to help students solve their own disagreements. School staff are also encouraged to play with students during recess. Schools receive play equipment and instructional materials, along with opportunities to learn from, and collaborate with, their fellow #RecessRocksinRI cohort members through extended learning opportunities and a Slack online community.
The #RecessRocksinRI initiative, which BCBSRI launched with partners in the 2015-2016 school year, now reaches 31,180 Rhode Island students. This latest expansion, made possible through a $140,000 grant from BCBSRI ($447,800 to date), furthers the partnership’s efforts to change school culture and improve the health of children by leveraging safe, fun and healthy play at school every day.
“A national study shows Playworks curriculum leads to increased vigorous physical activity, cooperation on the playground and in the classroom, and decreased bullying and disciplinary incidents,” said Jonathan Gay, Playworks executive director.
Data from schools involved in these recess interventions has been overwhelmingly positive: 92 percent of schools report an increase in the level of cooperation among students at recess, while 93 percent report an increase in students’ ability to focus on class activities.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that both recess and physical education in schools promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, and recommends that recess, whether it’s spent indoors or outdoors, should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute,” said Karin Wetherill, RIHSC co-director. “This partnership has helped to bring the benefits of an effective recess to our students statewide.”
By committing to reach 80 schools in its 80th year, BCBSRI reaffirms its longstanding commitment to the issue of childhood obesity and helping young people establish healthy habits, starting with recess. As a deeply rooted local non-profit company, BCBSRI prioritizes its philanthropy on wellness initiatives in local communities, with a focus on healthy eating and physical activity for children and families.