By Terry Rogers
Mark Carter, whose children are ages seven and eight and attend Milford School District, has started an online petition requesting that the district mandate 30-minutes of daily, open play recess for all students in the district. According to Mr. Carter, his children, who are in first and third grade, get 15-minutes of recess each day, but that includes bathroom breaks as well.
“By the time they actually get to the playground, they only have five or ten minutes to play,” Mr. Carter explained. “On top of that, teachers sometimes use recess as a leverage for children to behave, and when one or two students misbehave, the entire class forfeits recess. Children need time to re-charge and stimulate their brains, and recess offers them that ability.” The petition, which can be found at www.change.org/petitions/milford-school-board-mandate-30-minutes-of-daily-open-play-recess, has accumulated more than 270 signatures and many comments from parents.
“A lot can be learned from outside play, and kids need to stimulate a different portion of their brain,” Mr. Carter said. “As adults who have to go to work each day, we get to take breaks. We get our 30-minute or one hour lunch break, as well as taking five or ten minutes here or there to get up, walk around the office and stretch. Why shouldn’t children get the same benefit?”
Comments on the petition seem to support Mr. Carter’s belief. “Providing the opportunity for our children to escape from the sedentary and participate in physical activity is becoming more and more of a necessity,” says Kristin Majercik of Greenwood on the online petition. “For some children, exercise, like food, is available only at school. It would be criminal to allow it to disappear from the daily schedule.”
Mr. Carter also feels that free or open play provides added benefits to children as they learn teamwork and leadership qualities that will benefit them throughout life. Others agree with his sentiments.
“Recess is a time for children to practice the social skills they will need throughout life,” Heather Vezmar of Milford posted. “It is also a time for them to unwind, get physical exercise and just be kids.” Research indicates that Mr. Carter and the others who have signed the petition may be right.
According to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recess provides significant cognitive and academic benefits for children, especially those in elementary school. Studies show that recess, whether indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and productive in the classroom. In addition, the article in the journal found that recess provides social and emotional benefits, including improved communication skills, cooperation and problem solving. The petition asks for 30-minutes of recess for all grade levels, including high school students.
Carter explains that even though the petition is not asking for recess at the high school level, he feel that even students in the upper grade levels would benefit from a 30-minute break in the school day to get outside, relax with friends or just to step away from the computer screen for a few minutes.