Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michelle Obama is Always Right

An article came out in a recent issue of Time Magazine that I would have stapled to my Principal’s forehead if that weren’t so…mean. The title? The Reason for Recess: Active Children May Do Better in School. The article reviews a study by researchers in the Netherlands that reports children who get more exercise—on the playground or otherwise—tend to “have higher GPAs and better scores on standardized tests.” Their research was supported by similar studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about exercise and productivity among adults, and of course by what we see in our classrooms every day: cooping kids up in chairs and indoors is no recipe for success.
In my school and in many City schools, according to my friends and colleagues, the reasons for cutting recess are two-fold: schools lack staff to man the playgrounds, and (ironically) play time takes away from study time. Indeed, in the ever-growing pressure our schools face to meet budgetary shortfalls and tackle testing trepidation, our students’ basic needs become bargaining chips.

So are we cheating kids out of the scores we seek by denying them a little playtime? What age is too old for recess? What will we need to cut to make it happen? And, my favorite question, what kind of response do you expect, dear Principal, when you tell a rowdy bunch of 6-year-olds that you’re replacing their recess with silent reading time?

I think we can look to our Queen Bee for some answers here: Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative champions the gym and jungle-gym for our kids. This recent FLOTUS foray into schools and school policy makes me wonder if we're on our way to valuing physical activity and developmentally appropriate behavior alongside the more typical pushpins (think tested subjects). Will we soon see national standards for student health and fitness? Do schools have a responsibility to let kids move? Will we ever let kids roam my school's playground?

What will it take to make recess a reality in Baltimore City?

As always, more questions than answers.

Read the article here.
Click here to explore the Let’s Move initiative:


A BCPSS Parent said...

Perhaps you could convince your principal by citing a school that has recess and emphasizes physical fitness AND does a good job on MSAs. Look up Afya (http://www.afyabaltimore.org/afya_index.html)

Katie P. said...

Chloe -
At my school, recess, too, is non-existent. My principal has "banned" fifth grade recess because students were allegedly touching each other inappropriately, fighting during play time or "too sweaty" afterwards to sit comfortably in class. According to Chip Wood's "Yardsticks" (http://www.amazon.com/Yardsticks-Children-Classroom-Resource-Teachers/dp/0961863641), 10- and 11-year-olds, developmentally, need the opportunity to blow off extra energy and steam by running around and playing at recess. I am constantly battling my fifth-graders to "stay seated and stay focused." But is it fair to force students to stay seated and silent nearly all day long? Even though I try to incorporate partner work, collaborative groups and opportunities to move around the classroom, I don't think it's fair that I essentially hold my students hostage for hours upon end in the classroom (with no window, I might add). Kids need the chance to be kids, too.

I agree whole-heartedly with Mrs. Obama's initiative to get a group of kids moving for their health, for their developmental needs and (perhaps even more importantly) for their teacher's sanity. Now, like you, I still have to ask - why is it so hard for administrators to "move" on the issue?