Take a minute to think back to your childhood school days and, more precisely, the part called recess. What do you remember about it?
I would guess that you recall having fun and playing games that used your imagination and creativity.
Unfortunately, in many schools in Kansas, there is a startling trend of taking away morning and/or afternoon recess to spend more time in the classroom. Some administrators believe that their school's test scores will improve if children spend more time on schoolwork.
In Wichita, the amount of recess that elementary school students receive is determined by building administrators; district guidelines state that some recess with physical activity should be incorporated into each day.
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So what do the experts say about the value of recess? That depends on which experts you ask, of course. One of them, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, describes unstructured physical play as "a developmentally appropriate outlet for reducing stress in children."
"This time period allows children the opportunity to make choices, plan and expand their creativity," the association says. "Recess is one of the few times during the day when all of the developmental domains are utilized."
Somewhere in the process of educating our children, our society has become obsessed with students learning way too much at a young age. Isn't it more desirable to seek a balance between work and play, especially when play can produce excellent results?
For example, I work at a school, Lawrence Elementary, where a program called Peaceful Playgrounds is used to show students how to play safely and fairly, and then help them make a transition back to the classroom ready to learn.
The program includes games with consistent rules, ensuring that all students have the right to play, and to lose or win fairly.
The program also has conflict resolution training, which empowers students to solve their own problems.
We are currently in an era in which obesity is a serious societal problem. A report earlier this year, for instance, showed that in the past couple of years the obesity rate for Kansas girls aged 10 to 17 years old doubled from 2003 to 2007, a 91.4 percent increase and the greatest increase by any state.
Such troubling trends have prompted organizations such as KAHPERD (Kansas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) and the Kansas Health Foundation to speak out so that more kids get physical activity and physical education incorporated into their school days.
As a physical education teacher and KAHPERD member, it is my belief that daily physical activity will help students feel better, and thus, perform better.
Recess has its place in the school day. Didn't it for you?