Recess gets a makeover to fight bullying at Phoenix elementary school

PHOENIX - Recent statistics say as many as one of four of our children are bullied on a regular basis. And a lot of that happens during recess on the playground.

Teachers got moving during their own "recess" Wednesday at Griffith Elementary School in Phoenix to kick off a new program called Playworks Arizona.

The program begins for students in January, and uses recess to keep kids busy and interacting with one another.

On Wednesday, teachers tested out the organized games students will play, like foursquare and rocks, papers, scissors.

Soon a full-time coach will be out at recess keeping kids busy and encouraging teachers to join in on the fun. The coach will tailor recess games to fit with issues teachers are working on in class-- from teamwork to listening skills.

And the games make sure to include everyone, so no one feels left out.

"Everyone wants to play with you. And there isn't really that chance for that down time of bullying to happen because it's not really there, everyone's doing something," said Mackenzie Neal-Purkiss.

The games are fun with a purpose.

"Now they're excited to go to recess. And when they're in class, they're focused, they're learning. When it's recess time they get out there and get all that energy out, and then they're quickly back in the class," said Valencia Winfrey, program director for Playworks Arizona.

Winfrey says the program dramatically lowers how many students are sent to the principal's office during recess, which gives teachers more class time to focus on teaching instead of discipline.

Starting in January, 13 Valley schools will be using the program, including two schools in the Balsz Elementary School district.

The coach at Griffith Elementary will be paid for with a grant from Arizona Community Foundation.

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