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Transforming Schools Through Play

Pete Springer/OPB

In the last several years, our show has covered stories about bullying in public schools. It’s an ongoing problem and not easy to solve. But Shaver Elementary school in NE Portland is one of about 60 schools in Oregon that are experimenting with a program called Playworks, which research suggests reduces bullying significantly. 

It’s a relatively simple concept: paid coaches play with kids during recess and during some classes. Kids learn how to play a variety of different types of games and resolve conflicts using the “roshambo” or “rock-paper-scissors” method.

5th grader Lamonte Dascomb is a “Junior Coach,” which means he plays with the younger kids at recess and helps resolve conflicts when they come up. He remembers a time just a few years ago before his school used Playworks. He says kids used to cheat and act out often, and now he sees a huge difference in how the kids at his school behave — both in and out of recess. 

Did you or your kids experience organized play in school? What questions do you have about the role of recess at school or how Playworks operates?  


  • Rebecca London: Senior researcher at the John W. Gardner Center at the Stanford Graduate School of Education
  • Micah Barrit: Playworks coach at Shaver Elementary
  • Lamonte Dascomb: 5th grade Junior Coach at Shaver Elementary
  • Evelyn Minjares-Carillo: 4th grade Junior Coach at Shaver Elementary
  • Kathy Keim-Robinson: Director of Student Servies for Parkrose School District
  • Jonathan Blasher: Former coach; executive director of Playworks Portland
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OPB | Broadcast: May 21, 2013