At first glance, recess appears to be the simplest component of the school day. After all, it’s just a period of unstructured playtime for rambunctious children. But now, two elementary schools in Edina, Minn., have annoyed some parents by spending $30,000 on a “recess consultant” to help them with the activity.
The consultants from Playworks were brought in to help the schools navigate the “politics of the playground,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The company seeks to improve the quality of recess and make it more inclusive by adding more structure and encouraging positive behaviors. For example, according to the Star-Tribune, game participants are trained to avoid “You’re out!” in favor of “Nice try” or “Good job.”
The structured activities, ranging from soccer to jumping rope, are intended to make sure all students are able to participate while avoiding bullying and other hazards.
It may all seem a bit silly, but several school employees say it’s paid off with fewer trips to the principal or school nurse.
Still, it’s also clear that the new structured recesses are curtailing the freedom once associated with recess. Children at one elementary are encouraged to choose from several “games of the week,” with alternative options difficult to select. At another school, a student hoping to play basketball is shot down, told it “wasn’t a choice at the time.”
The greater restrictions have some parents fighting back. Nearly 200 at one elementary have signed a petition protesting the new approach to recess, following complaints from their children.
“[This] is a structured philosophy — an intervention philosophy — not allowing kids for free play,” parent Kathy Sandven complained to the Star-Tribune.
Recess has proven to be an increasingly regulated (and increasingly sparse) part of the American education experience. At several schools, concerns about bullying and injuries have led to bans on basic games like tag or dodgeball. (RELATED: School District Bans Tag To Protect Students’ Feelings)
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