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School Recess Time Disappearing

I’m a little fired up. Apparently, recess is taking a hike.  Since when did our educational system decide that they should get rid of recess?

My son recently advanced to the “upper hall” (4th-6th graders).  I guess once that happens, you move from 3, to 2 recesses. I’m realizing I was spoiled and had 3 recesses all growing up, but I think school recess time is important, even if it’s just 15 minutes we lost. I decided to post to our Facebook page, and in my opinion, an alarming number of people came back and said their kids were only getting 1 or 2 recesses a day.  Seriously? Elementary age kids getting just 1 recess a day? No one wins in that scenario, not the child, not the teacher, and certainly not grades or health.

So I decided to ask an old friend, Lily Eskelsen, what she thought about the whole thing (she also happens to be the  Vice President of the National Education Association).  I wanted to know if there was any good excuse for it.  Here’s what she said:

I can quickly tell you that NEA and our 3 million teachers and ed support staff are absolutely alarmed at what we’re seeing in terms of schools reducing or eliminating recess – an unstructured time for kids to just be kids and run out and kick a ball and jump rope and run around like little maniacs having a little fun having been sitting in un-airconditioned rooms all day.  Recess is a good thing.  It’s a healthy thing.  Kids need unstructured time to get physical.

And I’ll tell you what I’m hearing from my NEA teachers – reducing recess is usually to spend more time in test prep.  It’s bad for kids and it’s just morally wrong to eliminate something so vital to healthy kids like physical activity to maximize time to do something so meaningless like drilling for a standardized test.  It shows how out of balance some thinking is.

Teachers are fighting no-recess policies, but we absolutely need parent voices in this.  We encourage all parents to let the principal know how they feel.  Let the elected school board know how they feel.  Let the teachers know you support them in bringing back a balance between class work and play that all children need.

You can check out her blog here: Lily’s Blackboard

I agree.

I emailed my principal.  She didn’t respond. I emailed my district. They didn’t respond either.  I wanted to hear their logic. So I was left to look on the internets . . .

A 2006 report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that somewhere between 83-88 percent of public schools have a daily recess period. However, a study of 11,000 third graders released earlier this year found that 1 in 3 students receives fewer than 15 minutes of daily recess or none at all.

It’s obvious that it’s not a good idea to cut recess from our children’s education. Not even a minute of it. I don’t care if they have an art specialist or if they go to P.E. once a week. These kids need to go and run around outside.

And just my luck, I got this awesome infographic in my inbox today from the CDC:

Learn More About Burn2Learn

Needless to say, my principal and district have not heard the last from me. And if you have less than 3 recesses a day for your elementary age child, your principal and district need to be hearing from you. That’s the only way things will change.

A little more from the “internets”:

School Recess Improves Behavior

Tragic Demise of Recess, Who is Losing?

The Trends in Recess Today

Time Out! Is Recess in Danger

More on TodaysMama:

Posting Pictures of Your Kids on Facebook? Watch This!

Should Students Be Suspended Over Facebook?

Cellphones in School

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Comments (13)

  1. Pingback: Suspended for kissing — Joanne Jacobs

  2. Amy Grenell 12/03/2012 at 7:49 pm

    I just found out the principal at my daughters’ school has taken recess away from students on their P.E. days. My girls are in second grade and fifth grade, I really don’t like this new idea of more learning time instead of recess on days they go to P.E. Do you have any suggestions as to what we can do to change the principal’s mind. Thank you, Amy

  3. Karen 09/10/2012 at 1:48 pm

    wow! this is very interesting! I am showing this to my Mommy club! thanks for the info and I will check what our elementary school is doing and ask my Little Man’s Jr Kindergarden teachers, how much recess they are getting. it’s so important!

  4. Pingback: School Recess Time Disappearing |

  5. Beth Kimberly 09/04/2012 at 11:16 am

    Way to speak out and stand up for recess time! We need more people encourage playtime in schools. Looking forward to following how it goes. Here are a few tips for restoring recess we’ve gathered on our site:

  6. Erica Fehrman 09/04/2012 at 10:07 am

    My kindergartener gets ONE 15-minute recess per day, and one hour-long PE class per week. I don’t in any way think that’s enough recess time, though I do know that his teachers do many active things in class — the kids don’t by any means sit at their desks all day. Adding a broken foot in a cast to the mix for the beginning of school and the lack of activity that goes with it has made a definite difference in my normally easy-going child.

  7. Anonymous 09/04/2012 at 9:45 am

    I disagree with you on this point. My kids have only ever had one recess and they only have Physical Education 2x/week. BUT – our school day is 8:15 – 2:15 – I love that I am able to provide several options of exercise that are of interest or fun to my kids, including unstructured play time in their yard, riding bikes as a family, gymnastics, tumbling, dance, swimming. These are things that are of interest to my kids and are never what’s offered in PE or recess. So I think they actually get more free time, better exercise and more family time on top of it. It’s a win win for everyone. (and as a side note or school district is rated as one of the top 5% in the country so they get a great education while they are at school)!

  8. chris 09/04/2012 at 9:37 am

    State testing….it is so important, don’t you know! My kids’ school had one recess and a lunch break. P.E. occurred only twice a week. In place of traditional play for the lunch recess, they were implementing programs like knitting, reading, etc. for those kids who did not want to run around and play on the playground. Seriously. It is a terribly politically correct school. No wonder so many kids have absolutely no physical fitness or abilities. It’s a very sad situation. The older ways (when many of us were in school) were so much better.

  9. La Yen 09/04/2012 at 9:33 am

    I am of two minds. My daughter’s old school did not have recess, and I loved it–they replaced recess with daily, hour-long game-based PE. I loved that there was no unstructured “mean girl” time. Her new school has recess, and PE only 2 days a week, and so far I am not impressed. She has come home with stories of all sorts of bullying she has witnessed and doesn’t play anything athletic at all–they sit in the grass and talk. That being said, I would fight tooth and nail for recess for my boys. They need that maniac time.

    • Rachael Herrscher 09/04/2012 at 9:38 am

      I love the fact that the school had replaced it with something. Many schools don’t get a replacement and still have P.E. just once a week. That blows my mind

      • Amy Grenell 12/03/2012 at 7:53 pm

        My girls get one recess a day, and one P.E. a week. The recess is gone on P.E. days. 🙁

    • Rachael Herrscher 09/04/2012 at 9:43 am

      OK, and now I’m thinking more . . . I think the unstructured part is important. I like that they gave more physical time in your school, but I still think kids need to have the unstructured part. I agree that recess could be improved for those kids who get bullied and would love if they would have a P.E. instructor out on the playground providing a structured option . . . I don’t know . . . just dreaming of a school with enough budget and brains to do something like that! 😀

      • Beth Kimberly 09/04/2012 at 11:26 am

        Absolutely agree with you, Rachel! Kids need time to choose their own play, but they also need help creating a system of play that is both fair and safe. I work for a non-profit that provides workshops for adults on how to help students learn games and social skills to have a fun and safe playground.

        Here are some tips to get parents/staff started at their school: