Saturday, April 22, 2006

Changing The Recess Paradigm?

Is the traditional school yard recess becoming a thing of the past? According to the P.T.A., some schools are trimming recess in order to make room for more instruction: (emphasis added)
Think recess is just child’s play? Experts agree that playtime can be just as vital as classroom time to a child’s social, emotional and educational development. Today in Washington, D.C., the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Cartoon Network announced the launch Rescuing Recess, a campaign that champions the importance of recess for kids and works to help keep and revitalize it in schools across the country. The campaign was developed with direction from an advisory board of leaders and policymakers in children’s health and education, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Education Association (NEA), the National Association for Sport & Physical Education (NASPE), The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, New Leaders for New Schools and Health MPowers

Despite mounting evidence that kids need an outlet to blow off steam, learn to interact with others and get the exercise they need, nearly 40 percent of American elementary schools have either eliminated or are considering eliminating recess. Due to school budget cuts and an increased focus on academic standards, millions of American schoolchildren may miss out on unstructured play with their peers including hopscotch, tag, kickball or jump rope. Recess also functions successfully as an established school-based activity and should be carefully considered as part of any school health and wellness policy.

“We know many children enjoy recess as a welcome break from the classroom and parents appreciate the balance that it offers between schoolwork and play,” said Anna Weselak, National PTA President. “Children who are physically active do better in the classroom. The research tells us that even if it means a reduction in class time, providing more time for physical activity can lead to increased test scores. We are excited to be part of Rescuing Recess to make sure we keep or bring back an activity that needs to be part of every child’s learning experience.”
Once you get thorough the distracting graphics and follow the links, the website ( sponsored by the Cartoon Network is actually pretty good.

In some states, such as Virginia, recess for children in the lower grades is actually protected at law. The debate is
mostly theoretical.

On the other hand, in Pennsylvania, where no such statutory "right to recess" exists, a number of schools have, in fact,
done away with the time-honored playground break.

I believe that, like adults, (maybe even more so) children need to take a short break during their workday. School should never be reduced to little more than tedious grind for either children or the grown-ups who work with them.
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