I hope my posts have informed you of the trend in elementary schools of shortening and eliminating recess and the gap in the amount of time spent on recess between schools nationwide. Here is a quick review of the most important points I have discussed in my posts:
- 20% of school districts have cut back recess time since No Child Left Behind, by an average of 50 minutes per week.
- Children who attend high-minority, high-poverty, or urban schools are far more likely than other children in different locations to get no recess at all.
- School administrators site the following factors as reasons for the shortening/eliminating of recess: more time for academics, liability reasons, and concern for the safety of children on the playground.
- There are proven cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits of recess and free play, as well as improved classroom behavior in children.
- Parents are upset about the shortening of their kids’ recess and the negative affects it has on their development and success in the classroom.
- Some schools are hiring recess coaches as a solution to their safety concerns, however, a structured recess does not provide the same benefits to children as does unstructured play time.
What can you do to help protect recess? Here are a few ideas from Young Children that you should consider if you feel as passionate about this topic as I do.
- Find out whether the schools in your community have recess, and if so for how many minutes a day. Do all the children get recess?
- Check school playgrounds for safety. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) has helpful online resources (www.playgroundsafety.org). Examine the needs for supervision.
- Knowledge is power. Stay informed about what research says about recess. Check http://www.ipausa.org, the Web site of the American Affiliate of the International Play Association, promoting the Child’s Right to Play.
- Organize. Most changes occur because people work together. Teachers and families often make great recess advocates. So do students. Children can collect data, write letters, and make posters. In some schools, the efforts of children have gotten recess reinstated.
- Meet with principals, the school superintendent, and legislators and elected officials. Share your knowledge, but also be a good listener. Listening helps you learn more about the issues and also builds mutual respect.
- If friendly persuasion fails, advocacy can take many forms, including writing letters to the school board, writing letters to the newspaper, circulating petitions, and organizing rallies. Advocates in several states have even introduced legislation to ensure that children statewide are guaranteed recess.
The education of our nation’s future leaders is in your hands, Arne Duncan. I hope you see that children are humans, not just robots who need to be tested all the time, and they should be educated in all subjects. I acknowledge that English Language Arts and Math is very important, but their creativity and imaginations need to be stimulated as well. Recess and free play have proven benefits in children’s academics, focus in the classroom, and their social and emotional development. The leaders of our nation need to have the ability to think outside of the box and create innovative ideas and solutions to problems. I am concerned about the well-roundness of our nations children if this trend of shortening recess and other subjects that inspire creative thought in our elementary schools continues. Please Secretary Duncan, make a law mandating 45 minutes of recess in all elementary schools.