What about Recess?

Garfield teacher and activist Jesse Hagopian weighs in on the issue of the benefits of recess in an op-ed at the Times.

The average time Seattle students spend in recess has steadily declined over the past few years according to a May KUOW investigative story.

What's worse, the schools with the shortest recess times enroll disproportionately more low-income students and students of color.

I'll just weigh in and say I believe it is folly to cut unstructured play for students.  I think many of you might be too young to remember the children's singer, Raffi, but he had a great song called "Shake My Sillies Out."  I think recess is a good time for that and gives a needed outlet for kids and benefits the teacher with kids who more prepared to learn.


mosfet said…
Loss of recess is particularly brutal on kids with ADHD and makes them less able to focus throughout the rest of the day.

Eliminating recess in elementary school only gives students an extra 30-45 minutes in class, IIRC. I have difficulty believing that the additional time is worth the loss in concentration throughout the day from lack of exercise.
Catherine said…
The research indicates that physical activity is critical for boy's academic success, and at a minimum, neutral for girls. For example: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911094709.htm

Recess and in fact, all physical activity has been declining in elementary schools since the mid 90's - I live by a school and I know how little the kids are outside now compared to when my son was there. Decrease in recess time, increase in the "need" to medicate mostly boys in the classroom... can't help but think there's some correlation there.
Anonymous said…
I know many middle school kids don't take PE classes because they have to take reading or math improvement classes. As a result, they are spending most of their time in the classrooms (about 5 hours a day)with little time to exercise or socialize with friends (mostly during lunchtime). While these students, a lot of them are kids with behavior issues, do need to improve their academic skills, it's more important for their well being that they get a chance to exercise every day. 5 hours a day in the classrooms is just too much!

Anonymous said…
Time for lunch and recess was cut at Whittier this year by 10 minutes total (was 20 min and 20 min, now is 15 min and 15 min). There is an afternoon recess of about 15 min. This cut was stated to be because of the state requirement for 1000 hours of school time per year (when I looked it appeared to be this law: RCW 28A.150.220). However, this law seems to count recess as instructional hours, and to my knowledge when it was discussed with the principal, this cut in lunch/recess was to help "earn" us these hours. I also remember discussion by the principal of eventually trying to get up to 1080 hours by having to get rid of early release days, which doesn't seem to make much sense because I didn't see anything about K-5 needing 1080 hours, and there is also information there that early release days are counted as school hours.

I also find it interesting that there is a law (RCW 28A.405.460) that "provides that all certificated employees shall be allowed reasonable lunch period of not less than thirty continuous minutes during the regular school lunch periods" when the students are getting 15 minutes.

Whittier parent
Unknown said…
Are the comments really disabled on that piece or is it just me?

Catherine said…
@Maureen... they just finally were enabled... I've been whining at the times for three days...
Anonymous said…
I think many elemrntaries in Seattle are futzing with their schedules this year as a result of newer hours requirements from the state. What we really need is that half hour back we lost in the 70's, which all the other districts have. Then we could add back recess and lunch time and still meet hours requirements.

Anonymous said…
Check out this site for 2014-15 hours. Looks like it is averaged across the District and 1080 is targeting grades 9-12 if I read it right. Looks like 1000 hours K-8. In any case, an average gives some latitude. I believe that District personnel sometimes skew what they tell principals. It is another case of lack of transparency.

This stuff is all online so when a principal conveys partial truths reflecting facts that can be easily checked, that principal looks less professional.


retired teacher
Anonymous said…
@ Whittier Parent:
Few teachers get 30 minutes for lunch. Yes, it is on the books but rarely does a 30-min lunch become a reality. At least at elementary. At my school, the staff room was actually given over to a instr. asst. who needed a place to work.

retired teacher
Anonymous said…
I wasn't saying that teachers necessarily get 30 min for lunch. I just found it interesting that that was the law. And that it seems to be ok for students to get 15. And I don't count it as a half hour when it's 15 for lunch and 15 for recess, as my child can't eat during recess. And this 15 min also counts waiting in line, socializing (which they want to do since they're supposed to be limiting that in class) and walking to the lunchroom.

I also don't think it's reasonable for K-8 to increase their total school hours over 1000 to help out with the grades 9-12 "needing" 1080 hours. There's a reason for more hours when their older and less when they're younger!

Whittier parent
Jana said…
oh, and I meant to also add that I just found out from my son that there are some weeks he has P.E. only once (possibly 30 minutes) and at best twice (60 minutes). This is far off the mark of the required PE time mandated by the state. I believe it is 100 minutes a week (maybe 90).

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