Actually this post is about school, recess and playgrounds. These three words should be as intrinsically linked in the popular consciousness as the trio in the title. There’s just as much drama and adventure on most recess playgrounds as there is on a movie shoot. Recess action for the most part is unrehearsed and the cast are all naturals – it’s an organic kind of thing. Really what we have is a linear progression in that string of words, a causality of sorts – a place of learning, a time for release, and a designated space for physical play.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been giving more thought to recess. We are in our first real snap of cold and snow on Nova Scotia’s Halifax coastline. Our primary school aged son has come home on a couple of occasions recently lamenting that there has been no recess and no outdoor play at lunch. The cold, cold is the culprit with temperatures plummeting for a few days into the feels like -25°C (-13°F) with wind chill.
Cancellation of recess for reasons of severe cold is a quandary that school boards and principals in many parts of the world have to deal with each winter. Here in the tundra. on the up side of North America’s 49th parallel, the cold temperatures threshold resulting in cancellations varies. In Edmonton it’s -23°C (-9°F), in Winnipeg -30°C (-22°F), in Toronto -28°C (-18°F). When the cold fronts and extreme temps move on, the kids get back out to play and this is a very fine thing indeed for both kids and teachers I’m sure.
In Halifax the kids are back out now blowing off steam, having some fun. We’re fortunate that our schools are well equipped with playgrounds and other play areas. More importantly, there is a commitment to making this time available to the kids for unstructured, free play. The best of the best, these playgrounds – maintained and operated by the municipality not the school board – are accessible to the public virtually 24/7. (Check PlayGround Chronicles for a peek at some of Halifax’s playgrounds.)
This happy state of affairs is not the case in all jurisdictions. Through my recent, late adopter adventures in twitterland, I’ve discovered that there are some places where recess has been shut down. It just doesn’t exist any longer. Fellow blogger and twitterite Meg Rosker is campaigning to bring back recess at her local elementary school in Redington Shores, Florida. When I read about her campaign, I had a bit of fun tweeting a riff which Meg joined.
school without recess is like peanut butter without jelly.
school without recess is like summer without ice cream.
school with out recess is like the sky without a sun
school without recess is like a smore without marshmallows.
school without recess is like a rainbow without the colour.
school without recess is like Halloween without candy.
school without recess is like humour without laughter
You get the drift, we think that schools and recess are inseparable companions like rough and tumble, best buddies like Toopy and Binoo. We’re not alone. The New York Times has reported on the results of a study by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. The study provides empirical evidence for what many of us know viscerally – recess and play are good for kids – mentally and physically.
The next time you pass by a school at recess, stop, look and listen. The playground is like an orchestra in motion, kinetic soundscapes of bobbing colour. This is where the kids rule, where they run, talk, laugh and find common cause. This is where their thirst for free form fun is getting quenched. When I do get the chance to hear it, that rolling crescendo made possible by a critical mass of kids, I invariably smile. It takes me back to my own childhood, to british bulldog, red rover, tag, sports and the freedom to play.
If you’re in a school district where recess is under threat, join up with other parents and present school board officials with evidence-based studies on the value of recess for our children. There are a number of helpful documents posted on Carol Torgan’s 100+ Top Play Resources page, in particular the ‘Guidelines and Reports’ section. There’s also the U.S. based National Association for Sports and Physical Education site. Just pump in ‘recess’ in their search function and you’ll get a good cross section of material such as this position statement that also includes a brief bibliography.
Please join Meg and I’s riff by completing this sentence:
school without recess is like…..
Tweet your responses to @playgroundology or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A parting thought…
All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2011 Alex Smith.
If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.