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Can A Game Of Tag Help Combat Bullying?

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New research from Mathematica and Stanford centered on schools in diverse neighborhoods shows a healthy recess can reduce bullying, improve learning time

PRINCETON, NJ — Strengthening recess transforms the school climate, paving the way for less bullying and more focus on learning, says a new study from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University. The randomized control trial specifically looked at what happened when schools partnered with Playworks, a national nonprofit that is currently providing healthy recess and other playtime to urban schools in 23 cities nationwide. Playworks schools are chosen for their eligibility to receive free or reduced lunch programs and are typically in urban areas with largely African American and Latino student populations. Researchers found that investing in recess and organized play can prevent bullying, improve students’ behavior at recess and readiness for class, and provide more time for teaching and learning. The study is one of the most rigorous scientific trials to find an effect on bullying in schools, and one of the first that evaluates a recess- and play-based program as a potentially promising school-based solution.

“Our research shows that Playworks makes a difference. Teachers in Playworks schools reported less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess relative to control school teachers,” said Susanne James-Burdumy, Ph.D., associate director of research at Mathematica. “Playworks also facilitated students’ transitions back to classroom learning.”

The study compared schools using Playworks to a control group of similar schools without the program during the 2010-2011 school year in five cities across the country. Researchers found the following ways in which Playworks improves the school climate: Less Bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess than teachers in control schools; Better Recess Behavior and Readiness for Class. Teachers at Playworks schools tended to report better student behavior at recess and readiness for class than teachers at control schools, and they were more likely to report that their students enjoyed adult-organized recess activities; More Time for Teaching. Teachers in Playworks schools reported having fewer difficulties and spending significantly less time transitioning to learning activities after recess than teachers in control schools. Playworks students were also more likely than control students to report better behavior and attention in class after sports, games and play; Safer Schools. Teachers in Playworks schools perceived that students felt safer and more included at recess, compared to teachers in control schools; Satisfied Teachers. Nearly 100 percent of teachers in Playworks schools reported that they wanted the program in their school again the following year.

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