What if Indoor Recess was just as active as outdoor recess, with students moving around, playing, and having positive social interactions through group games?
Sounds great, but how do we fit physical activity into a classroom? How do we keep a respectful noise level? How do we support transitions when the students lose the physical change of scenery between the playground and classroom?
The Playworks New England team sought to address these common indoor recess questions by launching Rhode Island Active Indoor Recess Week, a free, week-long event focused on providing Rhode Island schools with training, games, and resources to support active and positive play indoors. This event was run by Recess Rocks in Rhode Island (RRIRI), a partnership of Playworks New England, the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island that has been bringing safe and healthy play to the Ocean State for 7 years.
Active Indoor Recess Week began on Monday, February 7, with a free virtual Indoor Recess workshop for RI public and charter school staff. Participants played active indoor recess games, like Beans on Toast and I See, I See, and learned about best practices for an organized and active indoor recess.
“The Active Indoor Recess training couldn’t have been timed better with the recent winter storm!” said Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition Co-Director Karin Wetherill. “Coach Jessi demonstrated simple games and strategies that get kids moving regardless of space or equipment constraints. Even though we had to hold the training on Zoom, seeing how much fun the adults were having doing these activities made me certain that these games – and the Banana Cheer – were going to be a hit in the classroom.”
Each day of Active Indoor Recess Week, participants received an email with a selection of games and resources centered around a themed activity, such as dance, student choice, or Rock, Paper, Scissors, to incorporate into recess that day. All games had a physical activity component and could be played in a classroom, hallway, or other indoor space. Similarly, since the weather and temperatures change so quickly in New England, all activities offered outdoor modifications so that educators could still participate, even if they were outside. In addition to active games, the emails contained activities to support students’ transition from recess to learning and vice versa.
There were many different motives for teachers to participate in Active Indoor Recess Week. For one RI teacher, the goal of participating was “to provide students with a creative, safe and engaging outlet,” even when recess takes place in the classroom. Other educators cited a desire to learn inclusive and respectful active indoor games, like Evolution, a Rock, Paper, Scissors game that was a big hit in a South Kingstown first grade classroom.
Many people assume that when it’s too cold to go outside and snow covers the playground, students will have to sit at their desks during recess and do silent activities. However, physical activity is important for students’ minds and bodies all year long, and indoor recess is a crucial time to offer movement breaks for students to “get the wiggles out.”
Group games and interactive play also support the development of crucial social and emotional skills that have already been impacted by school closures, lockdowns, and distance learning, and these skills can still be learned when playing inside. In a region that sees 3-4 months of cold, snowy, or rainy days that bring recess indoors, kids can’t afford to miss opportunities for physical activity or building positive relationships – and interpersonal skills – with their peers.
“Every year, we hear from Rhode Island teachers that they wish they could do more to support positive and healthy play for their students during indoor recess,” said Playworks Pro Trainer Jessi Jasper. “We’re so grateful for our partnership that allows us to provide support through the Recess Rocks in RI program, and even more grateful to all of the school staff that participated in bringing active indoor recess to their classrooms this week.”