Recess will be one of the topics on today's The Conversation starting at noon. Call in if you have thoughts, 543-KUOW. Here's their report on it. Interesting finding:

Another big difference between the schools is that at Thornton Creek, most of the students are white and middle–class. At Dunlap, nearly all of the students are black, Latino or Asian and from low–income families.

That corresponds to what KUOW found when we surveyed recess times across the Seattle school district. For instance, we looked at the 15 highest–poverty and lowest—poverty schools. Kids at the low–poverty schools average 16 minutes more recess than kids at the high–poverty schools. That amounts to about one whole recess more.

And amount of recess?

Dornfeld: "A lot of schools in the district give kids 45 minutes to an hour of recess every single day. Is that something that you see as realistic for this school?"

Thompson (principal at John Muir): "Um, so I would be interested to know who is giving 45 minutes to an hour of recess. Because I actually wasn't aware of that. And I would say that it's pretty unlikely. That's just a tremendous amount of time out of the day."

In fact, 17 Seattle elementary schools give students that much recess.

KUOW found that schools which offer the most recess, 45 minutes or more, have relatively few low–income students – an average of 20 percent. Compare that to an average of 71 percent low–income students at schools with the least recess: an average of half an hour or less each day.

An expert says:

Dr. Lenna Liu says that disparity is troubling because kids from low–income families often need recess the most. Liu is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist at Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. About 40 percent of the kids she sees are overweight or obese. She says that's typical for low–income families.

Liu: "But from a health and childhood obesity standpoint, taking recess and physical activity away from children in lower–income schools is sort of putting fuel on the fire.


Veronica said…
The difference may be lack of available classes such as art, music and PE.

At Muir they have a young dedicated PE teacher who teaches all day 5 days a week a 30 minute block of PE so they are getting physical activity. They have a focus on fitness there.

You will go to other schools and find in the North actual art and/or music teachers who are often paid by parents at this point to offer those courses so recess is not needed.

You get to the South end and well its get them calmed down and out of the building for a few minutes its not about fitness or having a structured orgainzed play activity but simply a break.

The disparity in behavior mirrors the disparity in performance I am afraid.

And by the way the South Shore Principal I hear resigned. Not that it will make much difference but its one massively screwed up school.. period.
Bird said…
Is the actual data available? Or is there only this summary in the report?
FHS85 said…
At John Muir Elementary, Principal Awnie Thompson says recess was cut back to 25 minutes several years ago to give kids more classroom time, and reduce arguments on the playground.

Thompson: "When we analyzed our discipline data, a lot of the conflicts were happening at the lineup, especially, when kids were coming in from recess. And when the kids come in that state of anxiety, anxiousness, it's hard for them to get settled for a while until they've had a big discussion about that."

Unstructured play is really important. The less they get of it, the less likely they are to be able to learn to cooperate and negotiate. Conflicts in line in elementary school should be teaching opportunities, not cause to eliminate recess.
I don't know where the stats came from. You could contact Phyllis Fletcher at KUOW.
Lori said…
Right on, FHS85. I was listening to the report on the radio and I was stunned to hear her essentially say, well, there were conflicts in line, so we just eliminated recess rather than take advantage of the teaching opportunity. Geez.

Of course, as I listened, my heart sank, because I suspect that in the name of standardization, all schools are now going to be required to offer the same amount of recess, and who wants to bet they won't choose 1 hour as the district standard!
Bird said…
At John Muir Elementary, Principal Awnie Thompson says recess was cut back to 25 minutes several years ago to give kids more classroom time, and reduce arguments on the playground.

Wow. How does this principal expect these kids to get on when they move up to middle school?

It's like cutting back on math because the kids were struggling with it so much it that it was a real hassle for everyone.

My kid's in Kindergarten, and as far as I'm concerned, recess is the reason I send my child to school. I can teach my kid academics if necessary, but I can provide no substitute for my kid independently figuring out how to get along (and hopefully have fun!) with peers.
Ben said…
I heard a bunch of this on the radio and it made me so mad.

I'm sorry, but I found the underlying assumptions so racist. "Sure, recess is fine for white kids, but black kids can't afford luxuries like that."

Never mind that recess is valuable for the kids' physical fitness, and their social development, and it helps them concentrate during class!

And the idea that you're going to curtail recess because the kids are fighting? Well, that's one way to address the problem. A callous way, but it's a way.
Chris S. said…
How about aligning with the socio-emotional curriculum used at Thornton Creek AND the recesses used as practice time? Heck, it might even raise test scores. I just don't believe the benefit is specific to white middle-class kids.
reader said…
I'm not so sure that the reporter is tabulating recess minutes the same way at all schools. For example, at Thornton Creek, they counted the 30 minutes of lunch as recess. So students got 30 minutes at lunch, and 2 15 minute recesses during the day. Adds up to 1 hour. At my mostly white school, students have 30 minutes for lunch AND recess. Most students spend about 30 seconds eating lunch, and about 29:30 at recess. Then, they also have the 2 15 minute recesses in the younger grades. 1 hour. Is that different at the mostly black schools? Are the teachers counting the lunch as recess at those mostly black schools? It seemed to me that they were only counting the non-lunch recesses at the black schools. If that's the case, the recesses are really pretty similar and the story a bit sensational.

Then, there was the issue of behavior problems during recess. Nobody brought up the point that teachers really should supervise the recess, and provide some structure... if it is needed. They do this at our school when needed. NPR also did a special on Cooper, which had a very elaborate support plan for recess. Good for them.
WenD said…
KUOW's report is like a road to nowhere. The principal of each school determines how much recess their students receive. I'm not drawing the same conclusions they've left hanging in the air.
Jet City mom said…
It isn't KUOW that is doing the research- it is being done @ Children's

COAT is based at Seattle Children’s. In 2006, COAT was recognized by the National Initiative of Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) as one of the top six national programs addressing childhood obesity.

I am so glad that you started this thread- I was trying to ask to do so earlier this morning- but using my cell phone in Dr waiting rooms.
One Major reason why we originally chose Summit K-12, was because of the weekly swim lessons given across the street @ Meadowbook.

Students have different learning styles and while all children can benefit from physical activity and play, children who are kinesthetic learners and who have difficulty processing linear/written information have even greater need for cross body motion which helps their neurological system mature.

Swimming especially, was very calming and students were more able to focus after swimming than they were before.
To hear that some students in the south end get 15 WHOLE MINUTES to play all day- is outrageous.

Students having problems with concentration need MORE whole body movement activities, not less.

PLAYING helps build creativity, attention span and interpersonal skills- not to mention the reason why this study was begun in the first place- to find the factors behind childhood obesity.

So all this is preaching to the choir- how can they possibly reason that they can't have them on the playground because it is " too hard" to have them line up?

Some things you don't get to throw up your hands and say you can't do.

Schools aren't allowed to say- We can't teach these kids ; reading. math or writing- because it is just too difficult.

They shouldn't be allowed to say " we aren't going to try to teach them to get along either".
Ann said…
I reported this story. Here's how I did it.

First, I standardized the recess times after lunch across the district. At Thornton Creek there is a 15-minute lunch period followed by a 30-minute recess (as you can see on their home page: Generally schools give kids 15 minutes for lunch, and that's the standard I used in my calculations.

I compiled the data on recess times from school schedules posted on their Web sites and by calling the schools. The demographic data is from each school's current-year annual report on the district Web site.

I'd be happy to provide the spreadsheets I used to crunch the numbers. Just give me a call at the station.

Teachers do supervise recess; they usually take turns, I understand. But obviously they can't oversee all conversations and disagreements, so schools like Thornton Creek teach kids how to resolve squabbles over rules of games, etc. (The kids in the line vote on whether the ball was out, etc.)

I'm glad there's been so much interest in the story.

Thanks for listening.
Ben said…
"But obviously they can't oversee all conversations and disagreements, so schools like Thornton Creek teach kids how to resolve squabbles over rules of games, etc."

And at schools like John Muir, they say, "It's easier to just forget recess than teaching them how to resolve squabbles."

You know, some kids just can't be taught.

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