Recess can be chaos.
As a result, disciplinary problems can lead schools to reduce playground outings significantly — if not eradicate them altogether. Just look at Seattle, where a new report from KUOW found that schools serving the poorest students might offer 15 minutes of outdoor play a day. And that’s if the kids are lucky.
The adults say it’s just too much trouble to let the children play on their own. But that’s backwards, experts say.
Nationally, almost 18 percent of kids ages six to 11 years old are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factor in adolescents, and the number of overweight or obese kids rises above one third. Physical activity during recess can help combat this. And adding to the importance of recess are studies that have found it can improve academic performance.
“Those students are the ones we also know have higher rates of obesity, and for whom academic achievement in school is even more important,” pediatrician Paula Lozano told the Seattle station, speaking about kids from low-income areas.
Across the county in the Bronx, New York, the group Asphalt Green may have a solution — turn recess into structured exercise time. Don’t call it physical education, like the dreaded gym class. This is supposed to be all fun and games, just with a very serious mission.
The nonprofit works with some 27,000 kids and can squeeze fitness fun into any hallway or corridor, a big plus for city schools often strained for space, organizers told the station. “Any space you give us, we can be active in,” says Arlen Zamula, the program’s Associate Director of the Recess Enhancement Program.
Asphalt Green’s programs may not look like the free-for-all tag games of yore, but organizers say they’re helping kids have fun while practicing fitness — and hopefully learning a truly life-long physical lesson in the process.