Really, it’s one of the best times of the school day

Principals and other educators often share that recess is the toughest time of the day. In fact The State of Play Gallup poll of elementary school principals found “Principals report that the majority of discipline-related problems occur outside of class time (87%) with the majority of those occurring during recess or lunch (89%).” One St. Louis, MO teacher called recess “horror time.”

But… we all know recess play time is an important part of the day. There are seemingly countless studies to prove it. When we share these with parents, we often hear the words, “No duh!” Any parent knows from just watching their own kids that children need time to run and play. Still the worry lingers, how can schools provide this time while focusing on their primary goal of academics?

There are numerous examples of schools addressing school issues by providing support at recess. An organization in Saskatoon, Canada trains students to become
Recess Guardians. Fourth through eighth grade students are taught rules of games, leadership skills and to maintain equipment before volunteering on the playground. Schools with Recess Guardians have seen fewer disciplinary issues in the classroom, and some are even reinstating recess time that was previously cut.

Tuscon, AZ resident and retired physical education teacher Steve Gall provides organized recess at schools so that every child gets at least 30 minutes a day of active play time. While teacher Curt Hinson has taken another approach, introducing Trouble-Free Playground to schools across the US. He shares materials and workshops on how to introduce games that encourage positive interactions.

Peaceful Playgrounds provides a recess program kit to create a colorful design on the playground, encouraging play and an activity guide for educators to introduce new games to the school playground.

Willard Elementary School in Sanford, ME has a Student Playground Committee. Students address recess issues of safety, rules and games played. They have created a booklet of common rules, a playground newsletter and a sign of rules for the school playground.

At Playworks, we believe in the power of one playful adult. We have modeled our primary model on just this. This enthusiastic adult teaches games and conflict resolution, trains youth leaders and encourages positive behavior on the playground. In addition, we provide a second model by training other adults to introduce safe, inclusive play to the playground. Others have taken this model by creating parent coaches or recess coaches for their recess.

Whatever model each school takes, it is important to make recess a priority in every child’s school day. Protecting this one part of the day can change the climate of the entire school.

What does your school do to preserve recess?

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