What Happened to Recess?

If only I had pictures from recess when I was a kid....

Things have changed quite a bit since I was young. At my elementary school in Michigan, recess happened on a big concrete slab that was down a hill, next to the four-lane highway (yes, there was a fence between the 7-year-olds and the cars). That concrete slab anchored all the playground equipment, and the playground equipment was all solid steel. For added fun, we'd climb the hill and walk a narrow ledge around a portable. It was about a foot wide, and falling would have been a seriously painful experience. It would probably have meant a trip to the hospital. Fortunately, I don't remember anyone getting seriously hurt at recess; or if they did, at least the hospital was only three blocks away.

Fast forward to today. Playground equipment is a whole lot more child-friendly; and if a child falls off something, they'll usually land on soft ground.That's arguably an improvement, but are kids even getting recess anymore?

Not according to Dale Zimmer, a parent of two kids at Daphne East Elementary School. Zimmer tells NBC 15 News: "The kids are in a structured environment all day. There's no time that allows them to interact socially, build those social skills, or develop that part of their life that's essential to kids their age." Besides the lack of recess, Zimmer says his kids also have to spend half their lunchtime in silence.

Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler released a statement which tended to confirm that there is no recess time, but that there is a 15-minute "snack time" and 40 minutes of PE. In addition, he says that "social and physical development are woven throughout the entire learning process... and not confined to a time called 'recess.'"

Shadow of girl on swing

To me, this all seems an overreaction. Kids need a chance to spread their wings every now and then, in an unstructured environment. The nice thing about recess is that you give kids a chance to be themselves, without putting them in any real danger. Even our concrete and steel playground in the 70s wasn't all bad, because we tended to be a little more cautious to avoid getting hurt. Frankly, I think any school that would banish recess needs to reconsider. It's good for our kids.

Watch and read the story with our news partner NBC 15.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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