Lack of school recess concerns education majors
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 15:12
Some of our fondest memories of early childhood and elementary school are from recess: chasing our peers in a game of tag, playing on the playground, swinging on the swings, sliding down the slides, racing across the monkey bars, climbing the jungle gym, playing sports and of course, playing make-believe. The opportunities for learning were endless. We were in control of our world, enjoying a break from classwork and obligations to play, explore the outdoors, discover, have fun, socialize, organize our own games and grow. However, you may be surprised to hear that many children have lost this valuable piece of the school day schedule.
The demise of recess in many elementary schools is an issue of great concern to child health and well-being advocates. Children are lucky if they have ten to fifteen minutes of outdoor playtime during school. In the late 1980s, some school systems began cutting back on recess in favor of more instructional time. The trend accelerated with the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001. Since then, 20 percent of school systems have decreased time for recess. Arguments against recess involve both academics and safety issues. Some administrators believe their school’s test scores will improve if children spend more time on schoolwork. Some fear lawsuits from playground injuries. Teachers however, are becoming concerned about a generation of children who are less creative, unable to entertain themselves, exhibit social difficulties and positive attention behaviors. In addition, when children cannot go out for recess (due to weather conditions or other issues), they have limited options to play inside. During indoor recess, many children engage in board games, read books or participate in other sedentary activities. These do not promote the physical movement children need from recess.
We heard about these changes, and, as Early Childhood Education majors, took them very seriously. In researching the issue, we discovered even the schools we attended as children had cut back on recess. At our placements, we have witnessed practices that truly shock and sadden us. Marissa Ranauto sees this first hand.
“As a senior in Early Childhood Education I have been to various placements and schools in the area. Last semester was particularly shocking for me. I was in a first grade classroom that I absolutely fell in love with. The teacher was great and the kids were full of energy—energy they were basically forced to keep inside themselves. It came as such a surprise to me when I found that the children were allotted a mere ten-minute recess. The ECE program at the university stresses the importance of play to children’s development. Hearing that children were being deprived of valuable playtime devastated me. Recess is crucial for a variety of reasons. It is important for socialization, gross motor development and simple stress relief. True, the children we work with are young, but that does not mean they do not long for a way to release their jitters. Pure evidence in that placement demonstrated the children were in need of quality playtime. They found it difficult to sit still and struggled to focus. Frankly, I could not blame them. My way of easing the situation was to incorporate as much movement as possible within my lessons. Still, I knew that it was not enough.”
Having studied the benefits of free play on the development of young children, we are advocating for recess because we believe it is a child’s right to play—not a privilege; play is a crucial factor in their overall well-being. Reducing or removing recess from the school routine is detrimental; youngsters who play are healthier, do better in school and have more advanced social skills. We all need to stand up for recess. We know that this is not a quick fix. Schools are striving for academic excellence and feel cutting recess is a solution. We have a made it a professional goal to prove otherwise. Think to the future; a few years from now, when your own children are in school, will you be okay with educational policy that deprives them of recess?