This post is the first in an ongoing series highlighting high-impact leaders who combine effective strategy, thoughtful measurement and evaluation, and continuous performance improvement to make a real difference in society. Cicero Social Impact recently connected with Chris Conard, the Executive Director of PlayWorks Utah, a rapidly-growing organization making an impressive impact on childhood development through play. We’re excited to share the interview below.
What societal problem does Playworks try to solve?
At the top of the list of challenges desperately in need of effective solutions is public education.
By most accounts, and by most measures, our public education system in Utah is not effectively reaching its real potential; to ensure to that every child in public school is an engaged and productive learner. Recently published data by the University of Utah reports that “nearly one in five of all Utah students dropped out of high school in 2013.”
Reversing this trend will require embracing innovation and shifting transformational values within the education system itself. A multi-site, 25 year longitudinal study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health found strong links between social competencies as early as kindergarten and positive outcomes in high school, college and adulthood. Kindergarten students who exhibited “social competence” traits such as sharing, cooperating, and helping other kids were twice as likely to attain higher education and 46% more likely to have well-paying jobs at age 25; conversely, with each point decrease students had a 67% of having been arrested by adulthood.
Playworks leverages the power of play in elementary schools to teach important social and emotional skills and improve student engagement in school by creating positive, safe and inclusive school environments. We believe in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid and help kids thrive physically, socially, emotionally and academically.
What is Playworks’ core program model?
Playworks’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for safe, meaningful play. Playworks stops the chaos outside of the classroom, shifts behaviors, and accelerates learning inside the classroom
What are your outcomes to date?
Rigorous evaluations by Stanford University and Mathematica with a randomized control trial that found Playworks led to fundamental positive shifts in schools. Our innovation of social/emotional development through play has statistically significant impacts on bullying (reduction of 43%), vigorous physical activity (increase of 43%), transitions from recess back to classroom instruction (21 hours of recovered teaching time), and sense of safety (increase of 20%). Subsequent evaluations have found impact on student engagement (73% increase) in school. Playworks Utah currently impacts 41 elementary schools and 22,000 Utah children. . . .
Read the full interview with Chris Conard of Playworks Utah over on the Cicero Social Impact blog.