Blacktop hopscotch and kickball games may soon be as archaic in schools as slates and abacuses.
As school districts struggle with budgetary cuts and federal demands to raise academic achievement, recess is becoming a thing of the past at many educational institutions. The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) reports that nearly 40 percent of American elementary schools have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess.
Any parent of a second-grader knows this information sounds like a fate worse than death to a kid. But the students are not the only ones worried. With childhood obesity becoming a national crisis, groups ranging from the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging school administrators to view recess as a necessity rather than a luxury.
Teachers echo the sentiment, though often for different reasons. A PTA survey of teachers found 9 out of 10 consider recess and the free time spent with peers to be an important part of the school day and crucial to a child's social and emotional development. Teachers also report that students are more on-task and less fidgety on days when they have recess, especially students who are hyperactive.
Principals often see the benefit of recess, but they struggle to find enough time and manpower to keep it part of the school day. When faced with a choice between a limited staff supervising a playground, or spending time getting remedial math students up to speed, math usually wins.
So is it time to put the jump ropes in storage? Not quite yet. Groups such as The American Association for the Children's Right to Play are recruiting volunteer "recess rescuers" to come in and save the day. You can join them! Check out http://www.ipausa.org/recess_work.htm for information on how to get started.
Don't have enough time to supervise each day at the monkey bars? You can still make a difference. Round up a group of parents, teachers, and children and take action. Contact your school and your elected officials and make your feelings known. Tell them that recess is important. For the appropriate names and addresses, go to www.congress.org
Michigan and Virginia have already mandated daily recess, and several other states are considering the measure. If you believe in the power of play, make your voice heard! As they race across the playground towards a beckoning swing, your kids will thank you.