Is Recess On Its Way Out?

According to the New York Times, a Newark, New Jersey Elementary School has hired a “recess coach” to get out there with balls, cones and a whistle in order to stop the fights, tamp down the bullies, and get the kids moving around and playing.

Before the coach arrived, recess there was often a confused, disorganized melee with an overabundance of problems. Since the coach has come on board, disciplinary referrals at recess have dropped 75% and daily injuries like busted lips, nosebleeds and the like have declined steeply as well. The coach organizes games and makes sure everyone participates.

This elementary school is not the only one that’s putting a different face on recess. School districts in Boston, Washington, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles have added recess coaches to 170 of their schools. And in Broward County, Florida, 140 of the schools have replaced traditional recess with 30 minutes of teacher-supervised physical activities.

The new trend has it’s admirers and it’s critics. Some say that it robs kids of the opportunity to relax and take a break from the rules and requirements of the typical school day. Others counter that kids today don’t know how to play on their own, and left to their own devices simply sit around or get into trouble.

It’s a fascinating topic and one we would love to hear your comments about. What do you think? Should the recess we all grew up with fade into the sunset or stay the way it is? Let us know!

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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One response to “Is Recess On Its Way Out?”

  1. Mary Ann

    I think it’s a chicken and egg syndrome. Children’s lives today are tremendously over-scheduled and over-structured, and because there’s never any “down time” they tend to “misbehave” when they’ve had enough. I am troubled at what I’m sure are negative effects on creativity, independence and self-management. Except for an unstructured gymnastics class on the weekend, I try very hard to leave our weekends unstructured, even meal-times. I know it goes against the conventional grain of scheduled security, but I want my daughter to have some time where she can do what she wants– and learn how to decide that. I think all this over-emphasis on scheduling results in excess materialism, because we are constantly buying new toys and new stuff and engaging in new activities to keep kids scheduled and entertained. They need to learn how to develop interests in what they like and pursue them. Too much “stuff” just gets in the way of that.

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