Recess isn’t just for the little kids in Montpelier, Vermont, reports Edutopia. Every day, Montpelier High students get a 15-minute break to play Frisbee or basketball, practice yoga or meditation, do art projects or jam in a band. “Students unplug from the curriculum, from stress, and from electronics.”
A “recess consultant” will design “structured” play at two Edina, Minnesota elementary schools, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Playworks promises to teach children to replace “Hey, you’re out!” with “good job” or “nice try.”
The two schools have joined a growing number of districts that have hired consultants to remake the playground experience into more structured and inclusive play time. The games and activities, like four square and jumping rope, are overseen by adults and designed to reduce disciplinary problems while ensuring that no children are left out.
Parents and students have complained about the new, structured recess.
Caroline Correia’s fourth-grade son, Liam, doesn’t like the limited choice of games. “He feels like that’s not playing anymore,” she said.
Roughhousing is “essential to childhood development,” writes Virginia Postrel in response to a ban on tag that was imposed — and then rescinded –– in Mercer Island, Washington.
Rowdy, physical play teaches kids to communicate verbally and nonverbally; to take turns; to negotiate rules; and to understand when they can use their full strength and when they need to hold back.
“Maybe we should think twice about making recess as joyless and authoritarian as the rest of the school day,” writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run.
Structured playtime may contribute to the campus safe-space movement, he suggests. “Is it any surprise that teens who have never enjoyed anything approaching actual freedom — who spent their purported free time being coached by paid consultants on the ‘right way’ to play with others — cringe in horror when they arrive at college and are finally on their own?”
Tag is back at school playgrounds on Mercer Island, near Seattle, reports the Seattle Times.
The district had banned tag — and any game involving touching — to protect students’ “physical and emotional safety.” In the past, tag has led to name-calling and minor injuries, district officials said.
Superintendent Gary Plano initially said schools would develop new “tag-like running games” with no contact. Now, children will be allowed to play tag at recess.
Some schools nationwide have banned contact games in the name of safety, said Jonathan Blasher, executive director of the nonprofit Playworks. Some don’t allow children to throw balls or use other playground equipment.
In 2006, some Spokane elementary schools prohibited tag because of safety concerns, he said.
“I think a game like tag is wonderful,” Blasher said. “You can play it almost anywhere, it’s universal. It’s important for kids to have that free-range play, where adults aren’t micromanaging, but there is the need for assurance that the kids have a basic understanding what the expectations are.”
Children have played tag for centuries, writes Lenore Skenazy on Reason‘s Hit & Run. It’s never been considered a dangerous game.
Tag — and other games in which children do not “keep their hands to themselves” — have been banned by the Mercer Island School District near Seattle. The ban will protect the “physical and emotional safety” of students, wrote Mary Grady, the district’s communications director, in an email note to Q13Fox TV.
I guess holding hands for Ring Around the Rosy also is verboten under the touching-is-dangerous rule.
Children have been playing tag since the time of Breugel — and possibly since the dawn of time — Skenazy writes. But today’s kids are too fragile?
Melissa Neher, the mother of two schoolchildren, started a Facebook campaign to alert parents to the ban.
“Kids should be free to have spontaneous play on the playground at recess,” she told Fox TV. “I played tag” as a child. “I survived.”
Another mother brags she survived Red Rover. That was one of my favorites.
Worried about passive, phone-tapping kids, Finnish schools are trying to get students moving, writes Tim Walker in The Atlantic. An American, Walker lives in Helsinki and teaches in a bilingual school.
Kids in Finland have short school days and frequent 15-minute breaks — typically there’s one after each 45-minute lesson. And even though the breaks keep them more focused in the classroom, they don’t necessarily keep them more active at school.
Under the “On the Move” initiative, his school has turned sixth graders into “recess activators” for first and graders. Older kids lead the younger ones in games, such as Banana Tag.
In the fall, a new schedule will combine short recesses into at least one 30-minute break. Students in grades seven through nine will choose activities, such as yogalates, floor hockey, or gymnastics.
Teachers also are looking for “strategies for getting students to be more active during lessons,” writes Walker. These include “energizers” (short breaks from sitting), allowing kids to complete work while standing or while sitting on large bouncy balls.
He’s replaced oral presentations, which tend to be dull and time consuming, with the “gallery walk.”
Students fasten their presentations to the walls of the classroom or hallway as if they were exhibiting their work in an art gallery. Each display is numbered and the children rotate from exhibit to exhibit systematically, spending a minute or two carefully studying each one. To make this experience more meaningful, students provide written-feedback to each other as they’re visiting each display. Before they start the active gallery walk, I hand out sticky notes in two different colors. On one color, my sixth graders write questions about the work for the presenter to consider and on the other, they jot down positive observations.
On the Finnish Report Card 2014 on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Finnish kids received a “D” for physical activity levels, reports Walker, U.S. children earned a D- on the 2014 United States Report Card.
The War Against Boys still rages, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in the revised edition of her 2000 book.
The boys are losing, writes Nathan Glazer in an Education Next review. Schools continue to ignore boys’ “distinctive characteristics” and “the gap in school achievement between boys and girls” is “even more substantial and troubling.”
Sommers describes trends in education that hurt boys, including “the
decline of recess, punitive zero-tolerance policies, myths about juvenile ‘superpredators,’ and a misguided campaign against single-sex schooling.”
“As our schools become more feelings centered, risk averse, competition-free, and sedentary, they move further and further from the characteristic sensibilities of boys,” she writes.
“The movement to give special attention to girls and their needs was part of the grand drive to equality that has dominated American life and politics for decades,” writes Glazer, a Harvard professor emeritus in education and sociology. “But the drive for equality for the sexes was accompanied by a litigious and bureaucratic fervor that often went beyond common sense.”
Career tech programs that have engaged boys are under pressure to enroll more girls, Sommers writes. Few girls sign up for welding or pipefitting. Few boys want to be cosmetologists or child-care workers.
The Obama administration hopes to use the $1.1 billion Perkins Act to push more girls into “nontraditional” vocational and technical training, notes Glazer.
Sommers points out that in 2010 women made up 64 percent of graduate students in social science, 75 percent in public administration, 78 percent in veterinary medicine, and 80 percent in health sciences. Will that attract the attention of politicians and of bureaucrats enforcing Title IX?
Thirty-two percent of 27-year-old women have earned a four-year degree, compared to only 24 percent of men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Chicago had one of the shortest school days in the nation — five hours, 45 minutes — until fall of 2012, writes Sara Neufeld in The Atlantic. Mayor Rahm Emanuel added an extra hour and 15 minutes at elementary schools, an extra 30 minutes at high schools. (The school year is 10 days longer too.) However, extra time may not mean extra learning, writes Neufeld.
Chicago Public Schools’ deficit, caused largely by a crisis in pension funding, is estimated at $1 billion. CPS’ 400,000 students have more time to learn, but fewer teachers and support staff.
“Funding is not there for a quality day, period, no matter the length,” said Wendy Katten, director of the advocacy group Raise Your Hand and mother of a fifth grader at Augustus H. Burley School.
The city initially hired hundreds of new teachers to help with the expanded schedule, since it could not afford to pay existing teachers to work longer hours. But now officials have eliminated more jobs than they created. At some schools, newly added art and music classes have been cut back, and the mandatory reintroduction of recess without funding for supervision has created a logistical nightmare.
In violence-ridden communities,”a later end to the regular academic day has left families worried about their kids getting home safely after dark if they stay to participate in after-school programs and sports.”
During his freshman and sophomore years, back when school let out at 2:31 p.m., Raul Arias played basketball and ran cross-country at the Marine Math and Science Academy. “I stopped last year as soon as the whole extended school day started,” said Arias, 17, a senior. He commutes an hour each way on public transportation to attend the military-themed magnet school instead of a subpar option in his neighborhood. “I have to worry more about myself going home than what I’ll actually be doing in school.”
In the 1970s, Chicago Public Schools cut short the school day to make sure students got home before dark, writes Neufeld.
The September 2012 teachers’ strike, “spurred partly by the fact that teachers were being asked to work more without a proportionate pay increase,” closed schools for seven days, writes Neufeld. A deal was struck: Elementary teachers work more hours, but get a longer break for lunch and planning. Students also get more time for lunch.
Theodore Roosevelt High added five minutes to each class period to use the extra 30 minutes. It doesn’t help, says Tim Meegan, a board-certified social studies teacher. “There’s no way anyone can tell me kids are learning more because they’re in school longer.”
High-performing charters typically have a much longer school day and year, writes Matt Di Carlo. District schools that want to extend the day should consider that a little extra time may not be enough.
In a town in northern Switzerland, 4- to 7-year-olds spend the day outside in “forest kindergarten,” writes Emily Bazelon.
It’s autumn. A few kids splash through a muddy creek. One boy falls down in the water, gets up, squawks, keeps going. A larger group sits and jumps in a makeshift-looking tent that consists of a tarp hung over a pole, with low walls made from stacked branches. A teacher tootles on a recorder. Later, the teacher describes the daily routine: Singing, story time, eating, and “then the children can play where they want in the forest.” She continues, “During the play time, the children have a lot of space. They can go where they want. Usually I know where they are playing but I cannot see them always.” The camera pans to a girl on a rope swing, swinging shockingly high into the tree canopy.
Academics usually don’t begin until age 7 in Switzerland, Bazelon writes. Swiss kids soon catch up, say the filmmakers.
In their new book, The App Generation, education professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis argue that kids today are becoming more risk averse. “Rather than wanting to explore, to try things out by themselves, young people are always pushing to find out exactly what is wanted, when it is wanted, how it will be evaluated, what comes next and where we end up,” they said in a recent Q-and-A.
When Bazelon was on a panel with Gardner, he made a related comment: Many American kids today never have been lost. “They have never been outside, in an unfamiliar place, without a parent or a GPS or a phone app to guide them. They don’t know what it’s like to lose your way in the world around you and to make do until you find it again.”
An American teaching in Finland was surprised that elementary school kids get themselves to school on their own. Children get frequent breaks — 45 minutes of instruction and 15 minutes of recess — and play outside, rain or shine.