Protecting and Promoting Opportunities for Meaningful Play at School

Dr. Lauren McNamara, Founder of The Recess Project, Named Newest Ashoka Canada Fellow

Children are in school all day, everyday, for the majority of their developmental years. They need supportive opportunities to play, to connect with their friends, to laugh, to be creative, to have fun, to develop compassion, and be great leaders.

24 APRIL 2018, Toronto, ON - For her innovative approach to redefining recess and outdoor play with The Recess Project, Dr. Lauren McNamara is the latest changemaker to be inducted as an Ashoka Canada Fellow.

“Children need guidance, role models and activities that help them connect and maintain their friendships,” said Dr. McNamara. “When kids feel connected and accepted they will engage more compassionately with each other, feel better, and negotiate play more effectively. We need to help them do this.”

The Recess Project highlights the social space and critical interactions that take place during elementary school recess. After eight years of research and engagement with school boards across Ontario, Dr. McNamara has designed a holistic, systematic intervention program that all schools can use to encourage beneficial social interactions and create a positive learning culture of play.

“Dr. Lauren McNamara’s approach provides schools with actionable tools and clear frameworks to improve recess without major structural changes or additional resources,” says Barb Steele, Executive Director of Ashoka Canada. “Lauren’s focus on play as a critical component in developing a healthy, empathetic, and engaged community of future leaders aligns perfectly with our mission to advance changemaker education in K-12 in Canada.”

The Recess Project is designed to mobilize changes in legislation, policy, research, and practice in order to ensure a healthy recess is part of the national conversation of healthy schools. At the school level, Dr. McNamara uses four key elements for influence change on the playground: 1) shaping an inclusive and compassionate culture of recess, 2) providing older students with leadership opportunities to be caring and compassionate role models on the playground, 3) offering all children access to a wide variety of options, activities, equipment, and materials during recess, and 4) ensuring the space designs (indoor and outdoor) are thoughtfully planned and conducive to inclusive, accessible, and meaningful play.

For more than 35 years, Ashoka has built and nurtured the largest network of leading social entrepreneurs in the world. After a rigorous selection process, they are introduced to a life-long fellowship, where every member is committed to championing new patterns of social good. We encourage Ashoka Fellows to take ownership of the network and we partner with them to co-create Ashoka’s vision of an Everyone a Changemaker world.

As a Canadian Ashoka Fellow, Dr. McNamara will benefit from the support and collaboration of the global network and over 50 distinguished Canadian Ashoka Fellows including Mary Gordon (Roots of Empathy), Janet Longmore (Digital Opportunity Trust), and Geoff Cape (Evergreen Canada). Click here for a list of Canada’s Ashoka Fellows.

About Ashoka Canada

Ashoka’s Canada was established in 2002 and aims to build a radically new Canada where solutions outrun problems—a country where everyone is a changemaker.

Together, we recognize, support, and connect a national network of leading changemakers, amplifying solutions and embedding empathy and changemaking into Canadian society. Our longest-running program is the Fellowship process, which sets catalytic social entrepreneurs on the path to join our community of Canadian Fellows.

In 2012, we introduced AshokaU, which fosters changemaking at university and college campuses. More recently, we have expanded into K-12 school systems with our Changemaker Schools initiative. Our Changemaker Campuses and Changemaker Schools are at the forefront of this shift into education. At our side in these programs is our Ashoka Support Network, composed of inspirational Canadian business entrepreneurs.