Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Laura Medina Quintanar, the executive director of Playworks Northern California. Let’s learn what’s happening there and how Laura is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Laura! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Playworks Northern California?
Laura: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Recess time offers children opportunities to build and practice communication skills, cooperation, sharing, problem solving, perseverance, self-control, and conflict resolution. But, if the elements of high quality recess are not in place, many challenges can get in the way of the benefits of play. For example, children are excluded, play is too unsafe, and conflicts escalate. These challenges on the playground can then negatively impact students' experience and performance in the classroom.
Spiffy: I see! What motivates you to do it?
Laura: Growing up, recess time was tough for me. I was too shy to jump into any games or ask about the rules, and I very rarely got invited to play. I often found myself sitting on the sidelines feeling lonely and left out. I would have loved to have a Playworks Coach at my school to teach us all games, create an environment of inclusion, and help me make connections with my peers. In this work, I am motivated to make sure that every kid has the opportunity to engage in safe and healthy play.
Spiffy: Wonderful! What is the impact of your work?
Laura: Playworks works to create a place on the playground for every child to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills. We partner directly with schools and organizations to help them build their capacity to deliver safe and healthy play. We do this through a variety of service offerings from direct in school staff support to professional development and even digital services. To date, in California, Playworks has impacted 1,678,007 students statewide.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?
Laura: Our governor recently signed SB291, the Recess for All Legislation that will require all elementary age students in California to get at least 30 minutes of recess time each day. The law also bans the practice of withholding recess as a disciplinary tool. This legislative milestone puts a much-needed spotlight on the importance of recess time. At Playworks, we know that quality matters as much as quantity, and we are excited to work with more schools to provide high quality recess time.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Laura: At Playworks, we believe that play has the power to bring out the best in everyone, kids and grown-ups alike! Our website is jam-packed with free resources that students, teachers, and even corporate employees can use to introduce play into their daily practices—including a free game library with hundreds of games! On our website, you can also learn more about how you can bring Playworks to your school or job. Play On!
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Laura—it’s been an honor!
Laura has dedicated her career to creating cycles of opportunity and building educational equity. She is currently the executive director of Playworks Northern California. Her leadership is deeply rooted in her identities as a Latinx woman, an undocumented immigrant, and a first-generation college student and professional. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 9, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.