Dear Mr. Markoe:
I am writing about recess. My daughter is in kindergarten, and before school began, she spent hours outside each day, playing all kinds of physical, imaginative, and creative games. Now she gets at most 20 minutes of recess per day, which is barely enough to blow off the steam from sitting in a classroom for three or four hours and nowhere near enough to get involved in any meaningful games. My understanding from Ms. Ober is that this time limit is a guideline that comes out of your office, and I would like to respectfully suggest that it be changed.
As you are undoubtedly aware, there is compelling evidence to suggest that unstructured play is an integral part of learning for children [e.g. Pellegrini, Huberty & Jones, 1995]. Healthy children play elaborate games of make-believe, which teach them not only social skills but also how to think abstractly [Jarrett et al, 2001]. In addition, physical activity is crucial for healthy development, and our children do not get anywhere near enough of it [Etnier et al, 1997; Waite-Stupiansky & Findlay, 2001]. A physical education class every fourth day, although nice, does not meet this need. When kindergarten was half-day, we could assume (however falsely) that kids played outside when they got home. Now, however, they are in school for six or seven hours each day, plus time spent on the bus. They desperately need more unstructured playtime and physical activity.
As an educator myself, I am acutely aware of the pressure on you to meet local, state, and national standards. I am also aware that the consequences of not meeting those standards can be dire. But many of the standards are at best misguided and at worst actually damaging, and there comes a point when we must push back. We must say no, this is not what’s best for these children, and we won’t do it that way.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Etnier, J. L., Salazar, W., Landers, D. M., Petruzzello, S. J., Han, M., & Nowell, P. (1997). The influence of physical fitness and exercise upon cognitive functioning: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19(3), 249-277.
Jarrett, O. S., Farokhi, B., Young, C., & Davies, G. (2001). Boys and girls at play: Games and recess at a southern urban elementary school. In S. Reifel (Ed.), Play and Culture Studies, Volume 3: Theory In Context and Out, 147-170. Westport, CT: Ablex.
Pellegrini, A. D., Huberty, P. D., & Jones, I. (1995). The effects of recess timing on children's playground and classroom behaviors. American Educational Research Journal, 32(4), 845-864. EJ 520 960.
Waite-Stupiansky, S., & Findlay, M. (2001). The fourth R: Recess and its link to learning. Educational Forum, 66(1), 16-24.