Jessi Jasper, Playworks New England Regional Partnerships Manager, presents a certificate of appreciation to Bonnie Donahue, a building/recess aide at Norwood Elementary School in Warwick, who was honored as a Recess Rocks in RI 2023 Recess Champion. At right is Principal Sabrina Antonelli.

Jun 16, 2023

Recess Rocks in RI announces 2023 Recess Champions

The organization, in partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Playworks New England, and Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition, honors winners from schools in Central Falls, Tiverton and Warwick

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 16, 2023) – What does it take to be a school Recess Champion?

In Tiverton, it’s giving children “voice and choice.” In Warwick, it’s keeping activities fresh by running a “game of the week.” And in Central Falls, it’s recruiting students to serve as “Junior Coaches” to inspire and lead their schoolmates.

Recess Rocks in RI, which promotes the health benefits of physical activity and fun social play at recess, has announced its school-based 2023 Recess Champions. They are:

  • Theresia Joy and Kelly Sanna, paraprofessionals and team leaders at Fort Barton Elementary School in Tiverton
  • Bonnie Donahue, a building/recess aide at Norwood Elementary School in Warwick
  • Alberto Cardona, behavior specialist at Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls

​At celebrations being held at each school, the champions will be honored for the work they’ve done for their students and presented with a certificate recognizing their achievements.    

Recess Rocks in RI is a partnership among Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Playworks New England, and Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition. It is a free training program for school and recess staff, designed to ensure that recess ​is a safe, meaningful, and ​healthy experience ​for every child. ​Recess has tangible health and social-emotional benefits for kids and is a time for children to have fun, be physically active, and create positive relationships. ​

By helping young people establish healthy habits through play, Recess Rocks in RI aims to lower the risk of child obesity and the serious conditions it can lead to and reduce healthcare costs ​for all Rhode Islanders. The active play best practices taught through the program also improve student attentiveness and help develop social skills and emotional maturity.

Here’s what nominees said about this year’s champions:

  • Theresia Joy and Kelly Sanna were nominated by Principal Amy Donnelly-Roche for creating an engaging recess experience in which children have both “voice and choice.” Fort Barton recess is set up into zones. Children know what is expected and may choose among 4 to 6 zones per day that invite creative play, such as fairy gardens, construction zones, and outdoor kitchens, as well as physical play through athletics, cooperative games, and pretend play.                    
  • Principal Sabrina Antonelli nominated Bonnie Donahue for fully adopting the Recess Rocks program at Norwood School. She noted that Bonnie holds weekly meetings on Monday to prepare for the week and has taught and continuously reinforces the Recess Rocks Core values. She runs a game of the week station at recess and works towards having all students involved in safe and healthy play.                          
  • Principal Melissa Lourenco nominated Alberto Cardona for being “the driving force” behind Segue's Junior Coach program this year. Alberto has recruited and supported a dedicated group of 7th and 8th graders “who have been amazing in their new roles! Due to his training, Segue's Junior Coaches also recognize the importance of movement and play and how that affects academic success”.                                   

The Recess Rocks movement continues to grow across the Ocean State as educators increasingly prioritize the health and well-being of their students.     Recess Rocks has been actively encouraging and supporting efforts to incorporate – and pilot      safe and healthy play into the school environment.

School communities interested in joining the Recess Rocks movement can learn more about the program online.