Wrangling recess at Congress School
The Calvin baseball team is trying to keep up with the kids at Congress School.
It was the second session of a Tuesday recess at Congress School, and the playground was jumping. Kids clung to and dangled from the jungle gym. They slid down the spiral slide, they soared on the swings, and a cluster of them shot a basketball at one of the hoops. And in the center of each knot of activity was a member of the Calvin baseball team.
“I don’t have the energy anymore,” lamented Grant Jobkar, a sophomore business major and outfielder with the Knights. “I used to be able to run around all day.” Jobkar was supervising the recess activities that morning with Derick Vargas, a junior Spanish major, Jack Jorgenson, a 19-year-old junior freshman biology major and sophomore Eric Poencet—all pitchers for the Knights.
The students and their fellow baseball players monitor recess every day of the week at the East Hills neighborhood school. “They really just play with the kids— everything from soccer to playing on the jungle gyms to basketball to everything in between,” said John Sparks, a Calvin professor of health, physical education, recreation, dance and sport.
Sparks created the Calvin-Congress partnership after he started tutoring at the school. “I fell in love with the kids,” he said. “They were struggling a little bit with supervision of recesses—were a little bit understaffed last year, and I wondered if there was a way to get our team involved … ,” he said. “They were really thrilled.”
The players enjoy their interaction with the Congress students. “Beats reading a book,” Jobkar joked. “ We do pretty much whatever they yell at us: ‘Come do this!’”
Vargas agreed: “It’s a blast … We just want to keep them all happy, keep them out of trouble.” There is a disciplinary element to the job, he admitted. “Actually, my first time here, there was a fight I had to break up. There are a couple of kids you want to catch and calm them do they don’t cause trouble.”
The Calvin students are doing a lot more than just playing around, agreed Congress principal Bridget Chaney. “It’s important because many times, the kids need structured activities to keep their interest because without it, they don’t always play productively.”
Jorgenson said he just likes the glee. “I haven’t had recess since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve forgotten how much fun these kids have.”