More Recess, Mom

Ask my first grader what her favorite part of the school day is and in less than a nanosecond she will respond: “RECESS!”

I don’t need to be a recess mom to know how much my kid enjoys running, jumping, cartwheeling, and horsing around with friends on the school playground. I just feel bad that we live in a part of the country where outdoor play in temperate conditions is severely limited.

My daughter’s school mandates that students play outside for at least 30-45 minutes per day (two to three, 15-minute recesses) unless it is pouring, or if the temperature falls below zero, with or without windchill.

I’m all for exposing kids to as much fresh air as possible, though I think that imposing the zero degree policy is a bit fruitless given that the only thing the kids do outside when it is that cold is huddle together in small groups and complain about not being able to go inside, but I digress.

According to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation, in the last five years, most public schools in the United States have drastically reduced recess time, and in some cases eliminated outdoor play all together.

The report, “Back to School: Back Outside” reveals some startling revelations. The one I found most shocking is that many school districts don’t have formal recess policies in place. For example, in one Philadelphia public school district, elementary school teachers are allowed to take students outdoors to play for 30 minutes a day if they choose, but sadly, many educators simply don’t do so. Some teachers admitted that they simply don’t want to deal with the hassle and inconvenience of going outside with their classes, especially when it is very hot or extremely cold, so they have the kids play games at their desks instead.

The goal of the report wasn’t to rat out unmotivated teachers, rather the National Wildlife Federation set out to show that spending time outdoors helps kids physically, emotionally and academically. The group points to higher test scores earned by kids who spend free time playing outside. In addition, the National Wildlife Federation claims that the more time kids get to blow off steam outdoors the better behaved they are in the classroom. According to the group, kids who participate in outdoor recess are more motivated and enthusiastic, and thus they perform better in math, science, reading and social studies.

How much time does your child spend playing outdoors at school?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.