Jill Vialet is the CEO and founder of Playworks, the leading national nonprofit leveraging the power of safe, fun, and healthy play at school every day. Playworks creates a place for every child on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills.
“Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn.”
Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Why play? From the satisfaction of breaking a sweat to the surprise of imagination, play teaches us to be human. In fact, societies depend on our ability to “play well together.” Through play, children discover the joy of physical activity. They learn the social and emotional skills they will use in the classroom, in the workplace, and in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes, “Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it.”
Jill launched Playworks in 1996 with two schools in Berkeley; while serving as co-founder and executive director of Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art, she met with a school principal who asked for help in reducing the chaos and conflict in the schoolyard during recess. Since then the organization has grown to 23 regions across the U.S., reaching more than 949,000 students in more than 400 schools through direct service and training programs. Vialet is the author of Recess Rules, a fictional book written for children from 8 to 13 years old. She has received numerous honors, including being selected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2004 and named to the Forbes Impact 30 as one of the 30 leading social entrepreneurs worldwide in 2011, as well as being asked to speak at TEDMED in 2014. She also is one of a small group of Californians honored with the 2013 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. Jill is a graduate of Harvard University.