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Blog Campaign, Leadership and Activism

Bring Back Recess #letkidsplay #bringbackrecess

My son is a perpetual powder keg of passion. You wouldn’t know that at school. He’s quiet, but not shy. He walks in straight lines and listens closely.  He doesn’t look like the type of kid who needs recess. After all, he behaves. He doesn’t fidget too much.

However, the minute he gets home, he explodes in energy. He kicks the soccer ball around and jumps onto the tire swing and chases the neighborhood kids around in a game of tag. I know that his teacher incorporates movement. I realize that he gets a fair amount of exercise in PE. However, he needs uninterrupted, unfettered, un-structured time to run freely.

I noticed this last Friday when I observed several classrooms. The school has slowly reduced recess down to a ten minute period tacked onto lunch. In many cases, the most rambunctious students lose out on this time because they are hyperactive in class. Thus, as they sat in solitude taking their common assessments, legs jiggled, kids giggled and teachers grew angry. Kids looked cagey and I couldn’t blame them.

I’m not sure if it’s an issue of liability, the obsession with test-taking or the high-minded talk about high standards, but we’re doing an injustice to kids when they don’t a chance for free play and recess. This sounds like an overstatement, but here in the U.S. we face a hypertension epidemic. People are literally dying for play.

I know we are trying to push for play in and out of school. I believe in the power of play. Yet, what I’m also suggesting here is a specific movement for movement – a way that we can get recess back into school so that kids who don’t have the opting out option can still benefit. I’m taking it local first. I’ll try and meet with the school board and I’ll write to representatives. I’m not sure if the Death of Recess is an issue in other regions.

However, I want to raise awareness and move toward action with this issue. I would love some specific ideas on how to move forward with this.

About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


7 thoughts on “Bring Back Recess #letkidsplay #bringbackrecess

  1. John,
    I remember elementary recess being tacked to lunch in grade school–at least one of them. When we finished eating lunch, we could go out–and I hated rainy days because that meant less swinging and playing on the monkey bars. I also loved being able to ride my bike home and have lunch with my Mom (ah, the days gone by!)

    But, I also remember running out to the field to play kickball each day, and having time to pick teams and then play several innings (do you call them innings in kickball?). I clearly remember getting to kick numerous times and being in field numerous times–and you can’t do that in the 10 minutes Virginia says every child should get.

    Thank goodness, I work with both teachers and a principal who doesn’t hold the schedule to that–most of our grades get at least 20, if not more, to play outdoors each day!

    Why don’t you start with asking the teacher if she believes 10 minutes is enough, and then why she doesn’t take more. If the response has to do with the test crunch, then you have some idea of where to go.

    I’ll definitely join the movement to increase play and recess.


    Posted by Paula White | March 13, 2012, 10:42 am
    • I’ve come to the sad conclusion that schools will do whatever is mandated through compliance and nothing more. It’s a sad reality. I’m ready to go the legislative route and increase the recess time to something beyond ten minutes. In our schools, kids get 35 minutes of lunch-and-recess. It becomes, essentially, a slightly longer lunch period. Add waiting in line for food and there is simply not enough play time. By middle school, kids are already skipping lunch to play.

      Posted by John T. Spencer | March 13, 2012, 12:58 pm
  2. I’m in. This is incredibly important, a way we can make a difference in kid’s lives right away. I recently went to a Boston-area school with a group called Playworks, where the organizers bemoaned the lack of time for recess. Kids in most Boston Public Schools get 15-20 minutes of recess a day, max.

    Thank you John for this important leadership.


    Posted by Kirsten | March 13, 2012, 10:46 am
  3. Rock on, John –

    What can you, your students, your children and their parents and friends get away with wearing? I’m enamored of buttons lately.

    What about lifting up student and child voices through social media, as well as through your own short talks and videos? You could illustrate/animate a humdinger, I’m sure.

    And what does Pencil Integration have to say on play?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 13, 2012, 12:29 pm
    • I like the button idea. They are not explicitly outlawed in our uniform-wearing school and I’m pretty sure my son’s school allows buttons.

      I might put together a video – perhaps my son talking and maybe a sketchy video (haven’t done that in awhile). Or maybe a couple of annotated videos of empty playgrounds. Maybe I could do a video a week and try and gain momentum.

      I actually wrote a post on the Pencil Integration blog about the need for games. Not entirely the same, but it was a metaphor of video games and the necessity of play.

      Posted by John T. Spencer | March 13, 2012, 12:55 pm


  1. Pingback: Inspiring Others To Lose | The Kindness Kronicles - March 14, 2012

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