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What Happened to Recess?

Last week was the second event in the Speaking of Play series presented by the Providence Athenaeum, Providence Children’s Museum and Kidoinfo: a provocative conversation about the important benefits of recess. Panelists shared stories of their recess crusades and sparked an enthusiastic and passionate audience exchange about joining together as a community to stand up for recess.

“If the value of recess was recognized, it wouldn’t be taken away.”
— Providence Children’s Museum director Janice O’Donnell

Much of the conversation focused on how recess is increasingly limited or withheld as a punitive measure. What alternatives can teachers, schools and districts use to respond to behavior issues instead of withholding recess entirely from a child — or a whole class? Are there other things that can be taken away? Panelist Alicia Bell advocated the model from the school where she teaches in Franklin, MA: children lose just a minute of recess, though not for a first offense, and it’s effective — it gives them time to reflect and teachers don’t see the same kids in trouble repeatedly.

Credit: Susan Sancomb

A child psychiatrist shared several thoughts: he sees children deprived of recess because they haven’t finished their work, often due to attention problems and learning disabilities. It’s normal for people to talk, abnormal to stand in quiet lines: “There’s a culture that gets perpetrated — generation to generation — in schools that’s completely alien to what happens outside of school. We need to advocate for rules that are reasonable to the situation but also reasonable to the child.”

Click here for more conversation highlights and download Take a Stand for Recess, a sheet with practical resources and guides plus articles and research that will help make the case for recess.

And join the final conversation in the Speaking of Play series — Play and Risk: How Safe is Too Safe? — on Tuesday, May 7 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM at the Providence Athenaeum.

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