What no Recess?

A few days ago (Saturday, December 2, 2006) I was reading an article in my local newspaper, "The Seattle Times," with the headline "Elementary schools increasingly restrict or ban recess for kids" This article is about a national trend to rid the public schools of recess. The article says that 40% of schools have eliminated recess or are thinking about it. The two reasons they gave were ridiculous! The first was the fear of liability and the second was so that more time can be spent in instruction. "That fear of liability and the pressure to prepare students for high-stakes testing have spurred thousands of schools to cut recess and physical education -- usually in favor of increasing math and reading instruction." I don't think I want to be in a nation where kids don't play anymore.

What has this world come to? We have become a nation where coffee is too hot, guacamole doesn't have enough avocado and now slides are too slippery, asphalt is to hard and heaven forbid a child might trip over their shoelace (oh that's right we now have velcro).
"Running at recess was banned last year in Broward County, Fla. In October, officials at the elementary school south of Boston banned tag and touch football. Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo. And Spokane banned tag during recess. And this past summer, Portland public schools eliminated swings from their playgrounds, along with merry-go-rounds, tube slides, track rides, arch climbers and teeter-totters."
How ridiculous is this? When are we going to pull out all the trees God gave us because the kids might fall out of them and do what little boys do; break an arm?

Public schools are consistently teaching to the test, especially here in Washington where we teach to the WASL. They teach so much to the test that art, music and now play are being pushed out of our children's lives! This is a shame! "But with all the other subjects we're mandated to have, all we have left for recess is 15 minutes." We are so fixated on the goal (but I'm not sure what the goal is and I'm not sure they do either) we are forgetting to look out the side windows of this fast moving train at the scenery. We are forgetting to get on our hands and knees and play horsey. We aren't playing tag anymore, kick the can, kick ball, rounders and all the other fun games we played as children on the playground. Our children aren't playing them either. We are too busy to teach our children so we left it to the public schools. Now we aren't teaching our children to play and we left it to the public schools but now they are giving play up because they have to teach to some test that is going to tell us our kids don't know anything. Well let me tell you something, our kids don't know anything because they aren't outside making their heart pump, blood circulate and or making synapses inside their brain. They are so concerned with facts that they are forgetting the fun! Boys and girls should be outside running and jumping. They should be out there picking sides for a kickball game, solving conflicts because someone "missed the base." Kids NEED TO PLAY!

"If we continue to eliminate physically vigorous games that help strengthen children's circulation, their strength and muscular conditioning, then just like a river, their bodies become susceptible to disease," say Rhonda Clements, a former president of the American Association for the Child's Right to Play. (She is also a professor of education at Manhattanville College in New York and has written or edited nine books on the value of child's play.)

"The most recent numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention show that 17 percent of children and adolescents are overweight."

If the kids aren't playing at school then they must get it at home. But they aren't getting it at home. At home their head is stuck in front of a screen so they can "relax, and veg out" since they worked so hard at school and are facing HOURS of homework. Our kids aren't playing with the neighbor kids. The kids aren't climbing trees, riding bikes and playing stick ball in the street. I will admit it isn't safe out there because of all the loonies running around BUT they don't even get the chance to do that, there is no time because they are busy doing homework or "vegging out."

I also want to know where and when the kids are going to blow off steam? I know that while working on a very mentally taxing project, if I schedule in some breaks I work better and smarter. I actually save time by exercising. I get up at 5 every morning to go spend an hour exercising so that my day runs smoother. When I turn off my alarm and miss my workout my days don't go so well, even with the extra hour or so of sleep. I wonder how these kids are going to make it. How will they be able to work smarter on those dreaded tests?

America wants to move to the head of the class so badly they are forgetting that the beauty is in the journey and the goal should be to learn in all areas of their life. Math, science, English, history, art, music and physical education. There is seldom joy in life when it just one sided. We don't need extremely "smart kids" we need extremely well rounded healthy kids in America. We need kids who know how to lead because they learned how to lead on the play ground. We need kids who know how to play by the rules and not cheat. We need kids who are healthy because they know how to play and have fun. We need recess!