Playworks Education Energized

We believe in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid

Oakland, CA   |

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Playworks's mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.​

Ruling year info



Elizabeth Cushing

Main address

1423 Broadway PMB 161

Oakland, CA 94612 USA

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Formerly known as




NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Primary/Elementary Schools (B24)

Recreational, Pleasure, or Social Club (N50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

While innovation has blossomed in education, from the classroom to the ivory tower, public education has not benefited from the power of innovation to the degree that is evident in other sectors. Given the critical need for improving public schools, we simply cannot accept the situation as is.

We know that effective teaching and learning are complex activities that rely on a web of factors. Many education improvement efforts focus on teacher skills, such as relaying new information, building student skills in sequence and creating opportunities to demonstrate mastery. These efforts are primarily classroom-based and cognitive in nature, and they are critical to the goal. However, there is growing recognition of our ability to affect other levers for change, and that how children interact with each other has a direct and measurable impact on the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Direct Services

Every day, in hundreds of schools around the country, Playworks staff organize fun, play-based physical activities before, during, and after school. For 25 years, Playworks has demonstrated the transformative impact of play for developing social and emotional skills, improving school climate, and increasing children’s well-being and engagement in learning.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Playworks Pro provides professional training and ongoing support to school staff, paraprofessionals, and after-school care providers to create and maintain a great recess throughout the school year.

Population(s) Served

PlayworksU online courses help teams use effective, research-backed practices to help play support learning. Each course includes a number of 4 to 5-minute interactive modules with videos, reflection questions, and self-assessments.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


RAND Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Evidence Review 2017


James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award 2013

James Irvine Foundation

Playworks Founder and CEO Jill Vialet was chosen as one of its top 30 social entrepreneurs, those who are tackling the world's most intractable problems. 2011


Number of students enrolled

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

This data reports on number of elementary school children supported by any Playworks service or partnership.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Playworks is changing school culture by leveraging the power of safe, fun, and healthy play at school. We create a place for every kid on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills. Our work is grounded in Playworks’ Six Simple Principles of Play that ensure the most joyful, free, and inclusive experience for all children and adults.

1. Every kid has the opportunity to play every day – on the playground and in the neighborhood.
2. Kids get to choose to play and to choose games that make them happy.
3. Kids have the right tools to resolve playground conflicts on their own.
4. Adults play alongside kids, modeling and supporting a culture of trust, positivity and inclusion.
5. Play is not treated as a reward to be revoked.
6. Everyone is welcome to join in the game, because playing together is a great way to build community.

Playworks partners with schools, districts, and after-school programs to provide a mix of services, including full-time on-site coaches (Coach), support for school staff who oversee recess (TeamUp), and professional training and consultations (Pro). Our model includes guided, inclusive games at recess, playful conflict resolution tools children can use on their own, modeling positive relationships, and opportunities to play cooperative and socializing games. We serve schools with diverse student populations, many of whom are traditionally underserved and disadvantaged; 76% of students at Playworks schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Key to that change is providing expert training to school personnel so they can model and teach the social and emotional skills students need. School climate improves as a result, because the interactions between adults and children have changed. At a Playworks school, students feel physically and emotionally safe, are focused on learning, and apply simple conflict resolution techniques to disagreements. The skills students learn on our playgrounds -- to establish positive relationships, demonstrate empathy and respect, and make responsible decisions -- are highly valued in the community and in the workplace. And kids are having so much fun they don't know they're building sought-after competencies that will serve them in the classroom and throughout their lives.

Playworks has been developing social/emotional skills in elementary-age children for 25 years. We are the only national organization focused on play during the school day and its potential for bringing out the best in every child. At Playworks our innovation has been propelled by principals and teachers who intuitively understand what children need to be able to learn. The innovation has spread from one school to another via principal networks and with strong, documented evidence of impact.

Heightened demand for our in-person coaching and training services within individual schools currently exceeds our capacity. While our in-school coaching model will persist, we are applying new methods to extend our reach. The demand is growing, especially since schools have re-opened during the pandemic, and we are working to engage a larger network of teachers, principals, families and health professionals to work collaboratively with us as we look at innovative ways to do more.

We are intensifying efforts, for example, to establish national collaborative partnerships such as our partnership with Kaiser Permanente on the National Healthy Schools Collaborative’s Ten-Year Roadmap aimed at coordinating and accelerating funding, policy and practice to integrate health and wellness in K-12 schools, including investing in play and physical activity.

Playworks board and leadership are currently focused on prioritizing how we will most effectively respond to requests for help, anticipating the intense need that is likely to continue to emerge this summer and fall. We are developing additional partnership opportunities and applying creative approaches to collaborations that we all see as essential in the nonprofit sector as a particular result of the pandemic.

For example, we are expanding our work through community-based and district-wide partnerships that involve training others to incorporate play into their classrooms, recess and student-support programs. We are designing and testing digital content and new marketing strategies aimed at individual teachers, principals, and parents.

Over the past 25 years, Playworks’ innovative approach has spread across the country with enormous momentum from word-of-mouth among teachers, principals and parents. The organization has grown to serve 2,174,400 kids through 3,259 school partnerships, out-of-school providers, and community organizations through on-site services, professional development, and digital support. Through a mix of service offerings that range from day-long trainings to a full-time on-site Coach for the school year, we help our partner schools learn how they can leverage play to create a positive learning environment. We help teachers see how simple changes during recess can have a huge impact on the entire school day. When schools staff organize and participate in inclusive games, model positive language and behavior, and use simple strategies such as rock-aper-scissors to resolve conflicts, they help create a positive environment where all kids are active and engaged.

Playworks currently provides on-site services in schools in 17 metro regions across the country. In addition, we offer professional development, training, and virtual services nationwide. These combined efforts enable us to serve any school, regardless of the geographic location and to meet the specific needs of particular districts and individual schools. As such, we partner with traditional public, charter, and independent schools in urban, suburban and rural areas. We support school service students with learning differences, and those where the kids speak multiple languages.

Independent studies of Playworks' programs conducted since 2011 have repeatedly shown the effectiveness of our services to teach social/emotional skills and improve learning environments. A 2013 Stanford University/Mathematica Policy Research randomized control trial found that Playworks' programs result in less bullying, higher feelings of student safety, and less time transitioning from recess back to the classroom. A study conducted by researchers at Stanford and published in the Journal of School Health in 2015 showed that Playworks programs improved overall school climate. Another Journal of School Health study found that after one year of Playworks, students showed statistically significant increases in problem-solving skills, feelings of meaningful participation in school, and positive feelings toward their own personal goals and aspirations.

In a 2017 published RAND Corporation report , Playworks’ was one of only seven play-based social-emotional learning (SEL) programs to meet the highest criteria for evidence of impact under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with statistically significant impacts on bullying, inclusiveness, student safety, student use of positive language, and student ownership of recess activities. Further, Playworks was one of the only interventions that met the highest criteria to involve non-teaching staff adults in implementing the program outside of the classroom.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback


Playworks Education Energized

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Playworks Education Energized

Board of directors
as of 03/22/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Pooja Shah

Mark Seiler


Pat Morrin

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Pooja Shah

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Joy Weiss

Kuang Chen

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Etienne Fang


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Leslie Boissiere

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Valerie Cuevas

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Antoniya Marinova

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Kanika Paricha

SunLife Financial

Susan Stone


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/21/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 03/21/2024

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.