R.I. School Eliminates Recess for Elementary Kids

AP

By TIM DALOISIO

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) A Rhode Island school district is doing away with the time-honored tradition of recess.

Beginning in the fall, East Providence Elementary School students will not be given 10 minutes before or after lunch to play. Instead of the traditional free-play, schools will be partnering with the YMCA to design a more comprehensive physical education program that will keep students active, even without recess.

As you can imagine, parents can be found falling on both sides of this conversation.

On one side, seeing a school district focusing on the challenge of childhood obesity and inactivity with creative structured activity via physical education reform is refreshing to see. Left of their own accord, not all children choose activity -- even in play time like recess -- and many of them need to be motivated to make the choice to move. A program like this could be very positive for parents facing some of these issues.

At the same time, it's not like all the facets of recess will be taken from these students unilaterally. Teachers in the district will be taught how to both recognize the need for and facilitate in class breaks that include some free-form play and other stress relieving "down time" for the class, allaying some of the fears parents have about the removal of the current notion of recess.

On the other side, you have parents worrying about how taking away the ten minutes of "kid time" from elementary school kids will negatively impact their children. Recess is not only play-time, but for children being pushed harder and more explicitly earlier in elementary schools than ever before, it is a source of release from stress, rejuvenation within the day and a constant lesson in self-guided social interaction.

For my daughter who will be approaching elementary school age soon, the free time at her pre-school is where most of the stories of the friendships she is making or the questions about social interactions are born. Critical learning about how children interact together -- both individually and in larger groups -- can happen in these small pockets of time on the playground. While it can certainly be argued that the playground is not the only place that social skills are acquired, my stronger memories of times -- both challenging and positive -- interacting with peers happened in this free time.

As a parent, I would be very nervous about my 6- to 8-year-old spending too much time in a completely structured school experience. There is certainly a place for the traditional notion of recess in my kids' experience. Whether it be learning new games or interacting directly with friends as peers. While I very much appreciate the inspiration for the increased importance in physical education by the Rhode Island school system, recess may not be the proper time to be replaced to accomodate it.

Do you think children need recess within their day? What are the benefits of structured physical education versus active, free play?