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First Person: LaVal Brewer uses play to improve kids' school performance

by Deepa Fernandes | First Person

LaVal Brewer, executive director of Playworks Southern California, plays handball with second graders at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy's Burlington campus in Los Angeles. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

LaVal Brewer is executive director of Playworks Southern California, a national organization based on the belief that increasing play at school is not only good for children's physical health, but also good for their academic performance.

"Recess and play in school campuses across the country is under attack," says Brewer. He says some schools are eliminating play at recess and lunch because it is "so chaotic and crazy." But play is "a critical part of children's lives," he says, adding that his goal is to help schools "be successful at having safe, inclusive play every day."

Brewer's organization points to a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University, which found that Playworks schools have less bullying and exclusionary behavior: Students are better behaved and pay more attention in class after participation in sports, games and play, and teachers at Playworks schools perceive students to be safer during recess and engaging in more inclusive play.

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