When Mike McDonald, founder and CEO of Recess Guardians, graduated high school his parents suggested he take a year off before attending university to travel and work. He chose to work at an inner-city elementary school in his hometown of Saskatoon where he discovered that disciplinary issues caused by bullying and extreme boredom were so prolific, local schools were cancelling recess.
“I thought the idea of eliminating recess was awful,” said Mike. “That was where I gained all of my confidence growing up, so I immediately began to wonder what we could do so all kids would have the opportunity to play, be active, and have fun.”
During his second year of kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, Mike recruited a small group of volunteers to create a solution. They would travel from school to school teaching students from grade 4-6 different games and activities they can play during recess, as well as lessons in leadership and sportsmanship. After completing the training sessions, the students are responsible for leading the different activities at recess time for all children who want to join. The process instilled leadership qualities and soft skills like public speaking and organization into the student volunteers, while providing entertainment and exercise to children during recess. Teachers noticed a decline in disciplinary issues after implementing the program and had more success executing their lesson plans.
In 2020, Recess Guardians enrolled in AC:Incubate. Soon after, the pandemic hit and they were forced to make a decision - adapt to the new normal or quickly become obsolete.
Forced to think on their feet, Recess Guardians quickly developed a virtual program offering - a sustainable and long-term offering that would allow them to service schools across Canada while aligning with COVID safety procedures. Not only did the team’s ultra-quick pivot tide them over during lockdown, they thrived.
Recess Guardians remains an extremely successful charity even as COVID restrictions begin to subside. They now have 3 program offerings; in-school programming, virtual programming, and their active8 programming which provides 2 months’ worth of activity planning as well as a box of equipment. The active8 program was so successful that they now offer it as a summer program for kids to share with their entire community, providing an alternative for parents who can’t afford to send their kids to sports camp, or just want a way for their kids to stay active.
“Our biggest goal is to help as many kids as possible,” said Mike McDonald. “Families have lost jobs and income during the pandemic, and we want to be able to continue offering free services to those families.”
Recess Guardians are helping schools in every province and territory across Canada, with plans to move into U.S and international markets soon due to high demand! Join us as we celebrate the accomplishments of Recess Guardians and our other alum at the AC’s graduation celebration!