Recess for children is such a simple concept that some adults don’t know how to deal with it.
Edutopia is talking about a “right way” to do recess in order to “optimize” it. This stems from a report that is supposed to “help” with recess. They want to manipulate how children play and how we analyze how children play.
Here’s a news flash! The right way to do recess is to give it to the children and let them play the way they want. Safety is important, but adult intervention should be kept at a minimum.
Still, the manipulators can’t leave recess alone. They want children calculating their pedometer readings after recess to make sure they took enough steps.
With Edutopia, we see future student behavior measurement—a social-emotional learning rabbit hole involving picky child surveillance and manipulation.
To help educators understand what works on the playground—and what doesn’t—researchers visited nearly 500 elementary schools spanning 22 urban and metropolitan areas in the U.S. The researchers hoped to develop a tool that looked beyond simple questions of physical activity and playground equipment and toward a broader review of “safety, resources, student engagement, adult engagement, prosocial/antisocial behavior, and student empowerment on the playground.”
A tool! More assessment!
They say adults should “model” behavior! Like children can’t figure out on their own how to play.
Adults shouldn’t be on the playground unless they are invited. They need to stand on the sidelines and watch.
Parents in New York are so sick of the manipulation of play they created a park that borders on dangerous, where children have access to hammers and junk. There are good points made here. New York City has so many rules about playgrounds that this park was created outside the city limits.
But intentionally setting up a risky setting for children also seems manipulative. Parents are not allowed into the play area, and they have to sign legal permission. It seems extreme and would never fly in a public school setting.
Why make recess so darn complicated?
With Edutopia, to get recess right, the study recommends that schools ask questions linked to student engagement and empowerment on the playground: Are children engaged in a variety of fun games and activities, both structured and unstructured? Are children choosing the games they’d like to play? Are they getting along and using recess to develop key social skills like turn-taking and conflict resolution? Can they operate with increasing confidence without regular adult intervention?
Can’t they leave it alone?
Good educators understand play. They study its importance to development. They realize that a child who sits alone looking at a butterfly may be recharging in their own way and they’re most likely developing fine.
Children don’t have to do anything during recess. It should be their choice!
When children have time to play, the way they want, when they are given the freedom to master the playground, they become their own people, they grow academically and socially. They learn how to get along. They think for themselves. They refresh.
Manipulating what children do during recess destroys this important learning feature.
While children should be left to play on their own, watching their interactions makes for serious observation by teachers who can learn a lot about how children are growing and learning. They might spot a child with motor coordination difficulties.
And, certainly, teachers should intervene to stop bullying behavior. Children need to learn some behavior is unacceptable.
If adults are worried about recess, they should read the research that’s already out there about it. Recess: Its Role in Education and Development by Anthoy D. Pelligrini is a place to start. Susan Ohanian’s What Happened to Recess and Why are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten is another.