Think back to when you were in elementary school. What is the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s the time I spent with my friends outside at recess running around, playing games, exploring, playing on the structure, talking, and using our imaginations. The possibilities were endless. Now I am in college and enrolled in a dance improvisation class as part of my dance minor. My teacher, Sean Greene, encourages us to go back to our childhood and play with each other. He tells us to not think about “dancing” and just move, letting our bodies sculpt our movement without reverting back to the dance technique that we have been trained in for so long. One class, he mentioned how schools are cutting back recess and how angered he is about this. A lot of his inspiration for choreography comes from his past, including childhood games that he played at recess. I immediately began thinking about what will happen to kids when they have no unstructured free time outdoors during school to play and interact with each other. What will happen to their creativity and imaginations? Will this affect the future of the arts, including dance?
In 1999, The American Association for the Child’s Right to Play conducted a study of 15,000 school districts and found that nearly 40 percent were either eliminating recess, cutting back on it, or considering one or the other. This trend has only continued since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, where schools are focusing more and more on standardized testing, and the educational value of recess has been pushed aside. In this blog, I will present the argument both for and against recess, and let the evidence do the persuading. I am calling on Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, to set requirements for recess in elementary schools nationwide. Recess should be reinstated the way it used to be, with 3 15-min intervals plus lunch for kids to play. How many times do you take a coffee break in your day? Kids are sitting in classrooms for approximately 6 hours at a time. Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to go outside and have breaks also? I’ll let you decide.