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Enrichment Programs Grant Brings Playworks to Spokane

There is something magical about creating art, playing music, and exploring outside. Positive play environments, getting outdoors, and learning to enjoy the arts allow a child to be spontaneous, exhibit their resilience, and find the enchantment to play out their instinctive nature. Believe in Me invests in these critical components for the healthy development of our community’s kids. That’s why I’m excited to announce a $5,000 Enrichment Pillar grant award for Pacific NW Playworks’ Education Energized program. (Playworks) This funding will provide school-wide subscriptions to their Keep Playing platform for selected Spokane area schools.

Getting to Know Pacific NW Playworks

Incorporated as a 501( c) 3 in 2009, Pacific NW Playworks operates from the Portland, OR region with twelve full-time staff and over 30 volunteers. This grant will support their activities at elementary and K-8 schools in the West Valley, Spokane, Central Valley, Cheney and Mead School districts. They anticipate serving up to 965 marginalized students in the Spokane area this year.

Children This Grant Award Serves

Although demographics vary quite a bit from one school to the next, the students that Playworks targets to serve bear some striking resemblances. Here’s a snapshot of what it’s like to be a student at one of these schools:

  • 50% Free and reduced lunch
  • 14% Household income below poverty level
  • 19% of Families using food stamps

Impact of COVID 19 on Play

A little bit about Pacific NW Playworks’ Education Energized program… when COVID 19 rocked the community with nationwide school closures, the social interaction and play environment kids need for healthy development was abruptly withdrawn from their lives. In response to the void this created, Playworks developed their Keep Playing digital service to help educators incorporate play into every day life and learning at home.

Keep Playing Curriculum

Every kid loves to play and Playworks Keep Playing curriculum leverages this intrinsic desire as an entry point to increase children’s physical activity while simultaneously teaching critical social-emotional skills. Their innovative platform provides weekly curated content to assist educators and families, taking the guesswork out of incorporating play into learning, whether that be in person, hybrid, or distance learning environments.

The Keep Playing series utilizes games and play-based practices to support the mental health and well-being of students, staff, and families. School staff and families receive weekly lessons that include clear and concise instructions for games and activities that can be utilized remotely or in the classroom. The games are CDC compliant and can be modified to meet each school or family’s strategies for COVID mitigation and risk management. The lessons are also mapped to CASEL’S SEL curriculum.

I had the honor to see first-hand how their program works on the playground during a recent trip to Vancouver, WA. I met up with Asia Wisecarver, Executive Director for Playworks, and one of their on-site program managers at Walnut Grove Elementary School. My initial purpose for the visit was to deliver their grant award check but it was terrific to see how Playworks had transformed the playground! It was terrific to see them interacting with the children and helping to initiate healthy play. While there, I was also able to ask a few questions about what’s next for Playworks in Spokane. Here’s what I learned.

What’s Next?

Now that they’ve received their funding, there’s a lot of work to be done. According to Wisecarver, “One of the first steps in the implementation of the programs in Spokane is to identify the four schools that will receive the service subscriptions. Playworks is working with Believe in Me Network partners like Debra Raub from Communities in Schools of Spokane County to help identify which schools to prioritize. Communities in Schools of Spokane County will also receive licenses to promote the Keep Playing series at the 14 schools where they have site coordinators working one-on-one with these kids. We’re hoping to really increase the exposure to these methodologies so we can help more kids.”

Wisecarver went on to say, “Once we’ve identified the schools that will receive this support, we will set up their subscriptions to Keep Playing. This service provides the staff with 24/7 access to the service and they will be able to incorporate our resources into their school days and recess activities. Once their subscriptions are initiated, each school will have access to the program for an entire year.”

Showing Kids You Believe in Them

Your donation in support of Playworks’ mission to bring safe and healthy play to our community’s children is helping to improve the social-emotional skills of kids right here in our community. If it weren’t for generous people like you believing in kids, we would not be able to fund great programs like Education Energized. You make this grant award possible and for this, we are exceedingly grateful.

Believe in Me is proud to include Playworks in the Believe in Me Network of nonprofits and supports the important work they are doing to align with our Enrichment Pillar of Caring. I invite you to learn more about how you can join us on our vision to help every kid develop the self-esteem they need to succeed. Please consider donating today so we can continue to support programs, together.

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