BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Asphalt Green’s Recess Enhancement Program (REP)—which serves 68 schools citywide—has expanded to four Queens elementary schools and will provide more than 150 physically active games to the borough’s children.
Last year, the program was added to six Queens elementary schools—including PS 017, PS 234, PS 082, PS 112, PS 199 and PS 050—and served 3,913 of the borough’s students. As the program is launched at Jamaica’s PS 349, Richmond Hill’s PS 254, Astoria’s PS 300, and Rego Park’s PS 175, it will now serve a total of 6,047 Queens students.
“REP makes recess an active space and fun time,” said REP associate director Ben Gologor.
According to Gologor, a REP coach will visit the schools two days per week and initiate inclusive games that teach children conflict resolution and teamwork, all while keeping them physically active.
The games are organized based on grade—for example, Gologor said that the game of tag is played differently in kindergarten through second grade than by grades three through five.
“For the younger kids, we have Cookie Monster tag,” said Gologor. “In this level of tag, the coach is Cookie Monster—and if the Cookie Monster tags you, you become the cookie helper.”
Older grade levels play more team-like grades, Gologor said. However, REP coaches ensure that the games aren’t too competitive.
“Queens has been an area that we’ve been steering towards more over the years,” said Gologor. “Through word of mouth, many of the Queens schools heard of our program and applied.”
Queens has been difficult for REP to reach since it launched in 2001 since many of the schools in the borough are large, with recesses typically including more than 50 students. Due to the size of Queens’ elementary schools, more than one staff coach would be needed. As a result of tight budgeting, the program hasn’t been able to reach more parts of the borough thus far.
“We found that Queens schools have asked for help and are eager to learn more, but have very little resources,” said Gologor.
REP was created to prioritize low- to middle-income communities as students at city schools with high minority populations and poverty rates are often less likely to get daily active recess.
Prior to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement for universal free school lunch at all public schools throughout the city, REP chose the schools it would serve based on the needs of the children.
In the past, Gologor said that REP would consider schools in which 75 to 80 percent of its students qualified for free school lunch as a school that has a high need.
“We want to make sure that we would have a large impact on the students,” said Gologor.
On days off from work, REP asks teachers to attend REP workshops. Additionally, teachers are asked to bring sneakers to work, so that on days when a REP coach isn’t on site, teachers can continue to engage in the activities and games with students.
Following REP’s launch, Hunter College conducted a study that found that REP increased students’ vigorous physical activity rate by 52 percent. The study also found that the program decreased aggressive behavior among students.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.