Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Why Recess is the best part of school

I am feeling the need to stand on a soap box right now.  I've recently heard that some schools are considering doing away with recess (this is an older report)because they are unable to meet all the objectives of the curriculum in a school year.  I think this will only make the situation worse, it will not improve it!! Kids need unstructured time in their day, especially the 4 and 5 year olds in Kindergarten and grade one.  Kids are being pushed to hard to be academic, being pushed to hard to grow up and they are missing out on their childhood.  Ok that last statement may be a bit of an exaggeration, but come on, school is putting a lot of pressure on kids now a days.

Now it's been many years since I was a student in an elementary school, but I remember my school days very clearly.  School started at 9 am, but the buses started arriving at 8:30.  I was a town kid, so I walked to school, now because I liked to play before school I would get to school just after 8:30 so that I could play on the playground for half an hour with my friends before school started.  Teachers were out on supervision at that time, and some were inside as well so that us students didn't try to sneak in.  At 9 the bell rang, (it could have been a few minutes before like 8:50) and we all went inside, we took off our outerwear, shoes on the shoe shelves, jackets and book bags on our hooks (either in classroom or hallway depending on grade).  Once inside the classroom we sat in our desks, which were measured to our sizes, no one sat in a desk that was too big or too small (another important task of schools that you don't see often), the teacher took attendance, we said the Lord's Prayer and sang O' Canada EVERYDAY!  The kids that were not of a Christian religion just stood quietly in the classroom or hallway, it was their choice.  At around 10:15 or 10:30 we had a 15 minute recess.  We all got dressed and headed outside where we played on the deathtrap equipment that was deemed safe in our age.  We had a climbing apparatus for five tires up and four tires across, and we would climb up and over.  So dangerous but so MUCH FUN!!
After recess we were back inside for more learning and then we were dismissed for lunch at 11:45 or noon.  I can't remember which time I just know I walked home and watched the Flintstones while I ate lunch at home. I was back at school by 12:30 because Flintstones were over and the other kids were playing outside.  Then we went in for school and by around 2:15 we were back outside for another 15 minute recess.  Finally at 3:30 we were dismissed for the day and even though I lived 5 minutes from the school, I could take up to 20 minutes before I got home because I would play on the way home.  But we played outside a lot during school, and I'm sure we ate up a lot of instruction time getting into and out of our winter gear and settling down after recesses, but I also know that we were more focused in class after a recess.  Recess helped us burn off some energy that was building up as we sat still in class learning what the teacher needed us to learn.  It allowed us breaks in the day so that we could be kids, we could play!!  I learned so much by playing at recess!

So it drives me crazy when I hear that people want to get rid of recess.  Our kids are not machines, they can't sit in a classroom all day for 6 hours and be expected to learn.  I wish someone would have done a study to see if ADD/ADHD cases increased with the discontinuation of recesses (most school divisions are down to one/ two recesses a day if you count lunch recess, lunch is even down to 40 minutes not an hour)  I have no proof, but I truly believe that taking away recesses will be detrimental to our kids health, and sanity.  Kids not liking school now will be nothing if we send them off to a place where they no longer get unstructured play.

Unstructured play is so Important to children's development.  It helps them develop self esteem, self confidence, and helps them to figure out their social circle.  Kids make friends and relationships when the adults are not forcing them to do something.  For those learners who are kinaesthetic learners recess is a great time for them to move which helps their brains process what they've learned.  There is a lot of passive learning that happens when children play, and children remember their own discoveries far more than the "discoveries" from structured lessons.

Consider the first three years of your child's life.  There was no formal schooling you as a parent taught your child everything they know. But even that is an overstatement, babies learn to do things by watching and trying new things.  I didn't teach my baby to crawl, I did not move his legs and arms, yet somehow he figured it out.  I didn't teach him how to go from laying down to sitting up and yet he learned that too. I did work with him on how to talk, but again lot's of passive learning occurs when baby's learn to talk. They learn speech patterns from listening to adults and older children talk, from listening to stories, from listening to music, but lot's of their learning occurs as they try new things and we encourage them.  Lot's of the way your child learns is through play, you play peek a boo, patty cake, the near far game.  All those things are games you play with your child to make them smile, but at the same time they are learning many different things.  Play is so important, so very important!!!

I beg of you, if you hear that your school division wants to cut out recess, go to the school board and tell them you will not support that! Do it for your children!! Do it for the teachers!! And if they are saying they are struggling to meet all the learning objectives because of time constraint, have the re-evalute the curriculum, the curriculum is so much more in depth then it ever was when I was a kid.  (one of my learning objectives in kindergarten was to learn to tie my shoes, we practiced in kindergarten, they don't do that anymore, I was supposed to be able to recognize my name in kindergarten and know my alphabet, they learn to read in kindergarten now)  I'd as soon say we as parents come back to the school divisions and ask them to give our kids more recess.  I'd love for a school division to try it even for one year to see if there is a difference, I believe there would be and I believe it would be a positive difference because I think the kids would be more focused!!

Ok I'll get off my soap box for now, but this isn't a dead issue for me, this is something I'm very passionate about.

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