Rescuing Recess: Helping Recess Thrive In A Global Pandemic

Rescuing Recess: Helping Recess Thrive In A Global Pandemic

These are the show notes for my latest episode of The #PhysEd Show Podcast. Take a listen to the episode by using the player below or subscribe to the show in your favourite podcast app!

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Table of Contents

Learning Targets

Why Recess Is Important

Recess Considerations During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The Plan To Save Recess

The Results: Fun, Engaging, & Safe Recess Experiences!

References

Show Notes

I had started writing this post back in August and never published it. Looking back, I was so frozen with anxiety and uncertainty at that point that it was hard for me to share anything. As I reread my notes and outline for this, I truly regret having not moved forward with it.

The reason I say that is because I am not sure that there was anything more important that I accomplished this year than what we were able to make happen with recess. As you’ll see in this post, there was a lot of thought that went into the plan to keep recess alive and thriving at St. George’s School. It truly took a whole school effort to turn this vision into a reality and I could not be more thankful and prouder of all of the teachers at St.G for their buy-in and effort.

Each day, every day, the students get outside for recess experiences that are safe, fun, and evidence-based. In this post, I’ll share how we did it.

Rescuing Recess

I spent a lot of time reading last summer. Since I had no way of knowing what the fall was going to look like (with another “big” government announcement always looming around the horizon), I kind of just read as much as possible to learn as much as possible so that – no matter what the fall threw at us – I had some evidence to guide my decisions and actions.

One of the subjects I took a deep dive into was recess. Last year, I got to hear Dr. Lauren McNamara talk about her work at The Recess Project. Her presentation really got me thinking about the role of recess at school and what we are doing to support positive, meaningful recess experiences for our students.

With many schools going back this fall (where it is – hopefully – very safe to do so), we need to be thinking about how we can successfully make recess a core, meaningful, safe, and fun part of every student’s day.

In this post, I’m hoping to outline some of the things I’ve learned through my research on recess in a COVID-19 world. I’m hoping this will a) help me gain some control over the mess of notes I’ve accumulated and b) provide you with some advocacy firepower that can help you make sure that recess continues to play the important role that it can play in your students’ lives.

Learning Targets

By the end of this post, you will…

  1. Understand why recess needs to be a part of the school day at your school.
  2. Know what the experts are saying in regards to COVID-19 recommendations for recess.
  3. Be able to list a few key strategies/considerations for implementing safe, meaningful, and fun recess at your school in this COVID-19 reality.

Why Recess Is Important.

Recess refers to a break during the day set aside to allow children the time for active, free play (NAECS-SDE, 2002). Defining it in such a way seems simple, especially considering the known impact that recess can have on a child’s development, and I think that is often part of the problem: because the idea of recess can seem so simple, it can come off as expendable. That probably explains why 20% of school districts in the US had reduced recess by an average of 50 minutes per week in order to fit in more time for “core subject matters” such as English and Math (McMurrer, 2007).

The value of recess goes way beyond whatever definition we could assign to it and understanding that value is key to being able to advocate for high-quality recess at your school. So let’s get into why recess is so valuable.

RECESS AS A CHILD’S RIGHT

First off, children have a right to recess. Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989) states that:

States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

This is recognized throughout the world as the child’s right to play. By cutting recess out of school or by limiting children’s equal access to it, we are infringing on their rights as human beings (Clements, 2000). I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get into education only to support the violation of children’s rights. Try bringing that up next time you hear someone trying to cut recess at your school!

From a human rights standpoint, recess has to stay.

RECESS’ ESSENTIAL ROLE IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

As you may have heard, it is recommended that children and youth get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 2016; Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2018)  These guidelines were set to support healthy development and reduce the risk of disease. That being said, few kids are actually meeting those guidelines. In Canada, only 25% of 10- to 17-year-olds are meeting the physical activity recommendation within the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines (ParticipACTION, 2020). These numbers seem to be about the same in the US (National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, 2018).

Considering the amount of time that students spend at school during the weekday, it is unsurprising to learn that recess contributes up to 70% of children’s weekday physical activity (Guinhouya et al. 2009). Limiting access to quality recess can have a severe impact on children’s overall physical activity levels.

Individuals who are physically active show not only physical health improvements (e.g. cardiovascular health, bone health, reduced fat mass), but also improvements in cognitive development and brain health, several dimensions of mental and social health, academic achievement, and overall quality of life (ParticipACTION, 2020). Knowing these benefits, how can a school claim to have students’ success in life as a mission yet also be willing to rob them of a daily opportunity to engage in life-enhancing physical activity?

Students’ access to recess as an opportunity to move and play will be especially important now considering the fact that COVID-19 has had an incredibly negative impact on kids’ activity levels given the lockdown measures that were introduced, limited access to recreational facilities, and reduced opportunities to play with friends.

From a physical activity standpoint, recess has to stay.

RECESS’ ESSENTIAL ROLE IN SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

There is no doubt that this first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on students’ mental, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing (SHAPE America, 2020). We’re all still reeling from our world being turned upside down and children do not always have the skills they need to be able to navigate challenging, scary moments the same way that adults can (not that all adults have… I’m still struggling!) As a result, children returning to school may be “more energetic, aggressive, or withdrawn, and they may have less capacity to self-regulate, resolve their own conflicts, or figure out how to play together” (McNamara et al. 2020).

In order to heal from this trauma, schools need to ensure that students have access to opportunities throughout the school day to connect with others and engage in activities that are meaningful and playful (McNamara et al. 2020). According to Lauren McNamara and Pasi Sahlberg (2020), “recess is typically the only unstructured time in the school day that provides a setting for children’s physical, social and emotional development — all of which are foundational for mental well-being, school engagement and learning.”

Recess provides students with the opportunity to grow both socially and emotionally: it can help students learn valuable communication skills, manage and/or relieve stress, and develop coping skills such as self-control and perseverance (Ramstetter et al. 2010). These social-emotional skills can help mitigate the negative impact on mental health that the COVID-19 pandemic has had (Darling-Hammond, 2020).

If we want to help create a supportive environment for our students as they return to school, we need to show that we value their social and emotional development (Bascia, 2014). Doing the hard work to ensure that recess is safe, inclusive, and accessible to all is a step in the right direction here. Cutting or limiting it sends a message that we do not actually care for our students as individuals, we only care about the grades they produce.

From a social and emotional standpoint, recess has to stay.

RECESS’ ROLE IN LEARNING

It is not uncommon to hear that students get held inside during recess in order to catch up on or complete school work. The reasoning here is often that “if students don’t complete their work, then they will not be learning”. However, the idea of taking recess away from students in order to boost their academic achievement isn’t grounded in evidence.

In reality, recess can actually help children be more attentive and more productive in the classroom (Ramstetter et al. 2010). By breaking up the school day with periods of unstructured play, we can actually have a positive impact on our students’ attention to tasks in the classroom (Pellegrini & Holmes, 2006). Not to mention the fact that providing opportunities to be exposed to natural or green areas of the schoolyard is restorative for our students (McCormick, 2017) and offers them respite from adult expectations.

So, from a learning standpoint, recess has to stay.

Recess Considerations During The COVID-19 Pandemic.

As we grow to understand the important role recess plays in our students’ lives, we need to get to work in regards to figuring out ways to make recess safe, inclusive, and accessible to all.

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that there is a severe lack of letters after my name. I’m not an expert in this area: I’m just a guy with a passion for education, an ability to read, and a desire to do what’s necessary to serve kids.

I’m not ashamed of that: I’m glad I have the self-awareness to recognize when I need to sit back and learn from others. If you are a school leader who is afraid of not knowing all of the answers, understand that leaning on others only makes you more stable and strong. Your job isn’t to know it all: your job is to recognize what is unknown and seek answers/solutions. Don’t let pride and/or ignorance get in the way of your duty.

That being said, let me point you towards what the Global Recess Alliance recommends in their Statement On Recess as safe practices to take into consideration for recess during the COVID-19 global pandemic:

HEALTH & SAFETY

  1. Add hand washing stations to be used before, during, and after each recess. Remember to model their use so that students understand how to use these stations effectively and efficiently.
  2. Provide hand sanitizer in every play area.
  3. Wipe down or spray all equipment and playground structures after each recess.

EQUIPMENT & ACTIVITIES

  1. Allocate separate bins for each class to be used only during recess, clean equipment between periods.
  2. Do not allow children to bring equipment from home.
  3. Minimize contact sport engagement during recess to ensure social distancing
  4. Have a list of inclusive games handy, including those that need no equipment.
  5. Provide leadership opportunities for students to help support each other and maintain the equipment.

ZONES & PLAY AREAS

  1. Offer a variety of outside spaces where free choice of different activities can take place, including quiet, creative, and solo activity spaces.
  2. Create areas or zones as a way to help organize the space by activity type -such as skipping, chalking, creative, free play, dancing or sports. This will help with equipment management and cleaning, provide comfort to children who may be feeling socially anxious, and minimize crowding. Ideally, allow children to choose where to play and to explore, and to be free to move among zones.

The Plan To Save Recess

Let me start this out that there was never a risk of recess being taken away at St. George’s: the school values recess and would never remove it from our students’ daily schedules. Still, with the government restrictions placed upon the school, we had to come up with a plan to make this work.

I honestly believe that there is a lot of value in looking at challenges as problems waiting to be solved instead of just hurdles in your way. Although I’ve never faced a global pandemic before 2020 came around, I’ve solved problems before. I know how to approach new problems, I have experience that can be transferred over and applied to new situations. That’s all that needed to happen here.

Oh… and work. Lots of work. Here’s how things went:

OUR COVID-19 SITUATION

Here in Quebec, the government mandated that – in order to contain possible breakouts – students need to keep to their class bubbles. In the public system, that looks like 25-32ish kids per bubble. At St. George’s, seeing that we’re a private school, the school decided to go one step further and keep students to their group bubbles: our campus have seven classes (one class per K-6 grade level) and each class is divided into two groups (for a total of 14 groups).

We’re a small campus, with about 190 students. That being said, not all students were able to attend school in person this year, so our in-school numbers were much lower than our total 190 registered students (with some group bubbles only having just over half of their students present in school). Each day, our group bubble sizes varied between eight to fifteen students.

At St. George’s, the students have two daily recess periods: one in the morning and one at lunch. In a normal year, the entire school (except for kindergarten) goes outside together for morning recess. In a regular year, the students eat lunch in the gymnasium (which – much to my dismay – gets converted into a cafeteria). Our gym isn’t huge, so only half of the students eat in there at a time: the juniors (grades 1-3) eat for the first half-hour while the seniors (4-6) have recess outside and then the two groups flip for the second half-hour of lunch.

Because we couldn’t have multiple groups eating in the cafeteria at once, the school decided to have group bubbles eat in the classroom for this year. This, combined with the school’s desire to go above and beyond the government’s recommendations, led to the school completely changing the daily schedule so that each recess period could become a staggered one, which was actually aligned to the COVID-19 recommendations for recess and was a model that had success in other parts of the world such as Singapore (Melnick & Darling-Hammond, 2020).

When I approached the school in August about wanting to design an evidence-based plan for recess, that was the information I was working with:

  1. Group-level bubbles that were not to mix.
  2. A new daily schedule with two 30 minute recess periods.
  3. A staggered recess plan that has only half of the school out at a time.

Just a quick note here: kindergarten operates on a different schedule for their recess periods. They still get two periods per day, those periods just take place when the other grades are in class. Because of this, I didn’t have to plan for K recess since they would always be going out for recess on their own.

I met with the head of our elementary campus and we went over these details. From there, I got to work on figuring out how to help kids get the most out of recess.

ZONED PLAYGROUNDS

The first thing I looked into was whether or not there was value in creating zones of play for our students during their recess periods. The idea was to create areas to which group bubbles could be assigned – with a rotating daily schedule – to minimize the intermingling of students between bubbles. St. George’s has an incredible schoolyard with a huge diversity of play areas and opportunities, so I was pretty sure I could make this work in a way that would benefit students.

As I looked into zoned playgrounds, I saw that there is some value to that approach. Zoning a playground involves dividing the existing recess area into separate distinct zones. Each zone has a specific activity associated with it, and additional equipment when necessary (Barnas et al., 2018).

Zoned playgrounds can actually boost physical activity levels in students during recess, both in boys and girls (Barnas et al., 2018). Based on the stats I shared earlier in regards to recess’ role in physical activity levels amongst youth, you can see why these findings were encouraging.

I also knew throughout all of this that I needed to focus on maintaining student choice as a core component of recess. Zoned playgrounds, when not designed around structured recess (more on that in a bit), can maintain student choice and promote student autonomy (Barnas et al., 2018).

However, given the fact that we were working with such a small number of students outside at any time (at most, it would be around 72 kids) and that the school has such a great yard, I wanted to go above and beyond in order to provide students with as much freedom of choice as possible. It would have been easy for me to say:

Ok, we have three grades outside at any given time. That means there are six total bubbles out for each recess period. Therefore, I need six zones.

Instead, I decided to come up with 12 recess play areas that would be scheduled in. By doing so, students could freely choose and move between the two adjacent areas that were assigned to them during any given recess period. My hope was that this would provide students with as much freedom and autonomy as possible – all while respecting our COVID-19 restrictions – so that they could get the most out of recess each day.

Here’s how I did this:

The first thing I did was snap a screenshot of our schoolyard using Google Maps’ satellite view so that I could have a bird’s eye view of the school. However, our awesome sustainability coordinator found an architectural map of the school which was much easier to work with. From there, I went outside to actually walk the yard and think about where play area lines would make the most sense based on how I know the students play during recess (there are advantages to having a ton of recess duty over a seven-year period).

I started off by creating six zones in our schoolyard and then sub-divided each zone into two distinct and adjacent play areas. I wanted to make sure that the areas were connected in a way so that students could move between them without having to cross another group bubble when they did so.

I then gave each play area a name and snapped a picture that would be representative of that area based on key features (e.g. a play structure).

With that work completed, I then started to design a weekly recess schedule to make sure that each group bubble got to play in each area at least once per week. From my experience at the school, I knew that students always fight for time on our turf field (I’ve created field schedules in the past to solve this issue) so I prioritized field time and made sure that each group bubble had at least two field periods per week. Because of how the schedule came together, I gave the most senior grades outside at recess (grade three for junior recess and grade six for senior recess) three field periods per week. I did all of this in a spreadsheet so that I could make sure that the play area distribution was fair for all bubbles.

With the zones/play areas marked off and the schedule set, I needed to create something that would help the students know where they were scheduled to be at each recess period.

I made a daily schedule template for each group bubble. There was one sheet per day (five sheets in total) and each sheet showed the names and photos of the two play areas students in that group bubble would be assigned to at morning recess and then lunch recess. This all lived in a hanging sheet pocket in each classroom and homeroom teachers took it upon themselves to rotate through the sheets each day so that students could check to see where they would be playing that day.

I walked teachers through this whole schedule/zone system during a faculty meeting and followed it up with an email that broke it all down for them. When you take something on like this, you also have to recognize that you will be the point person for the project for the foreseeable future. However, by presenting a system in a visual/teacher-friendly way, you can save yourself a lot of time in which you would be repeating the same information. I also worked amongst rockstar teachers, so that had a huge impact on the rollout of this plan.

STRUCTURING PLAY

In my research, I discovered that recess can be structured in one of three ways:

  • Unstructured recess is defined as free play in which students’ chose how they spent their time at lunch recess (Larson et al. 2014).
  • Structured recess involves all students engaging in the same activity that is led by a recess facilitator (e.g. imagine all students engaging in the same workout that is being led by the PE teacher).
  • Semi-structured recess involves set activities that were taught prior to recess (e.g. in PE class) that all students are encouraged to engage in and that can be led by a recess supervisor (Larson et al. 2014).

Given how structured the rest of their day would be, I wanted to make sure that recess involved as much unstructured play time as possible. However, based again on the stats on physical activity that I shared earlier, I also wanted to make sure that students were being as active as possible during their recess periods. The research suggests that semi-structured recess produces significantly more steps and MVPA than unstructured recess without having a negative impact on students’ enjoyment levels (Larson et al. 2014).

I decided to try and roll with something that would be a balance between an unstructured and semi-structured recess model.

By creating the zones and assigning play areas, recess was already becoming structured in a way as the space assigned to group bubbles would influence the types of activities students would engage in. For example, being assigned to a field usually led to an increase in invasion games (e.g. soccer, flag football), being assigned to the basketball court usually led to basketball games taking place, and being assigned to a playground usually led to students playing playground games like “Kick-The-Can” or “The Floor Is Lava”.

In addition to the play area influencing play, the provided equipment could also have an impact. Based on the COVID-19 guidelines provided both by the Global Recess Alliance and our provincial government, I decided to create recess equipment buckets for each group bubble. Each bubble received a 5-gallon bucket that would live in their classroom and become that bubble’s responsibility to bring out and bring in each recess.

In each bucket, I put some very basic equipment to start the school year:

  1. A soccer ball
  2. A tennis ball
  3. Two individual jump ropes
  4. A long jump rope
  5. Two flag football flags

Each bucket’s equipment was marked with that bubble’s code (e.g. 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, etc) so that it could be quickly identified outside in the schoolyard.

We had used grade-level recess equipment in the past, so the routine of bringing in and out equipment wasn’t something new. However, the bucket living in the classroom was 100% new and required some getting used to (just like any school day routine). Luckily, the whole team was on board and every teacher played their part to help students build this routine into their school day.

The idea was to start small with just a few pieces of equipment and let students get creative with the games they could come up with that equipment. Gradually, we would add new equipment to the bucket so that students could explore new ways of playing together.

The long-term plan was also to create a series of activity prompt cards that could be put in the buckets as well. These would serve as prompts that could be used when students were feeling bored or didn’t know what to play at recess. I haven’t finished creating them (yet!) but I will be sure to add them to this post once I do!

SUPERVISION, EXIT/ENTRY, & HAND HYGIENE

This was the trickiest part.

In a normal year, teachers can be assigned to cafeteria supervision as part of their duty schedule. Because our students were now going to be eating lunch in their classrooms, that meant that homeroom teachers would be supervising them as they ate. That meant that a big portion of our faculty would be on lunch supervision duty every day which also meant that other teachers would need to pick up extra duties to cover the recess supervision outside.

Following a conversation with the head of the elementary campus, it was agreed that we could ensure that recess was being properly supervised with three teachers outside. From there, I went to work on trying to figure out a supervision system and school exit/re-entry procedure.

Supervision Areas & Schedule

I started off by assigning a role to each supervising teacher and named each role T1, T2, and T3. With roles assigned, it would be easier to mark off each supervising teacher’s area of responsibility in the schoolyard. I made a graphic to make this easier to visualize for the team:

Again, going with the philosophy of doing more work upfront to avoid answering more questions later, I made a supervision “cheat sheet” that included each individual area being highlighted, the weekly schedule, the area’s photo from the daily schedule, and any additional notes that might help.

Keep in mind that we were expecting a high level of teacher absenteeism this year given the fact that the slightest sign of a cold meant teachers had to stay home to see how their symptoms developed. Having done all of this work ahead of time also meant that it was available to substitute teachers who may be coming into our school for the first time.

Once all of this work was done, all that was left was to figure out who was on supervision and when. Traditionally, we do a duty draft at the start of the year that works a little like this:

  1. All teachers put their names in a hat.
  2. Teachers’ names get pulled from the hat to determine the draft order (which gets written down on a whiteboard).
  3. Besides each teacher’s name, the number of duties they are required to have in their schedule (based on contract workload) is written down.
  4. The first teacher on the draft list picks the duty that they want, followed by the second, etc.
  5. Once the first round is complete (i.e. everyone has drafted one duty), we repeat the process in reverse order.
  6. This goes on until all duties are taken. Post-draft trades can then begin!

As we draft our duties, our names get put into the duty schedule spreadsheet. One change that we made this year to that spreadsheet was to identify who would be T1/T2/T3 out at duty. This was important to know as it not only determined where they would position themselves out in the schoolyard but also what their role would be during exit/re-entry procedures.

Speaking of which, let’s dive into those now.

Exit & Re-entry Procedures

When I started planning these procedures, I knew that the most important thing was to do what I could to avoid having students bunched up in the hallways like other schools we had seen on the news. I also wanted to make sure that groups didn’t have to cross through each other as they went to their play areas. I knew that this would have to be super structured because recess at St. George’s School is usually incredible unstructured: there is no school bell, no lines, no order… students just get dressed and head outside at recess and head back in when it’s done (we do have a light system at the door that lets them know if a teacher is outside, which they have to wait for before heading out). To go from that reality to one in which structure would be key to keeping kids safe would require clear procedures, solid routines, and lots of practice. Our students are rockstars though, so it didn’t take too long for them to get the hang of it!

Ok, here’s what I came up with:

At the start of each recess, the groups heading outside would get dressed for recess, sanitize their hands, and line up in their classroom (making sure to have their bucket ready-to-go!) Once in line, they would have to wait for a supervising teacher (T1) to come to dismiss them from their class.

I ordered walkie talkies for recess supervision and created little dismissal cards for T1 to know which group bubble to dismiss first. The idea here was that groups could only be dismissed once T2 & T3 were outside (confirmed via walkie talkie) and groups would be dismissed in a specific order so that we were filling up the back of the schoolyard and making our way towards the front. Following this order meant that group bubbles going outside would never have to cross through other ones on their way to recess.

T1 would always confirm with T2/T3 if it was ok to send the next group bubble outside. T2/T3 would give the go-ahead once they saw that the previous group to be dismissed had indeed made their way outside. Again, we really didn’t want group bubbles overlapping in the hallway.

While T1 dismissed groups inside, T2 would temporarily take over T1’s supervision area so that students could start playing (and be monitored) as soon as they got outside. Once all of the group bubbles were out, T1 makes their way outside and all of the supervising teachers move to the assigned areas.

Side note (we’re like 6000 words in, so why not take our time at this point): in the supervision area cheat sheet I sent to teachers, I also included protocols for how the supervising teachers should shift locations should one of them have to deal with a situation (e.g. conflict, injury). It worked out really well and we never had any issues (which is also a testament to the kind of school team that we have). The walkie talkies were a huge help with these moments since we could no longer just send a kid to let another teacher know that we’re dealing with something. Also, walkie talkies are cool. Also also, rechargeable batteries are even cooler. 🌎

Ok, next on the “to do” list was to come up with a way to have students reenter the school in a safe way.

This procedure would operate a bit as the exit procedure but in reverse. At the end of recess, T2 would ring the outdoor recess bell to let kids know that recess was over. Once they hear the bell, students had to gather up their equipment into the bubble’s bucket and then line up (each zone has a lineup cone to help students know where to go). Once in line, students had to wait for:

  1. A teacher to come by with hand sanitizer,
  2. Their group bubble to be dismissed.

Operating in reverse to the exit procedure, group bubbles now entered the school from the front of the yard to the back (instead of back to front) to once again avoid groups overlapping on the field or in the hallway. Just as I had done before, I made a “Recess Reentry Cheat Sheet” to coach teachers through this procedure.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of these procedures were counterintuitive because they went against the tradition of recess at our school. That being said, by doing the work upfront, setting goals, being clear in our communication, and doing everything we could to support one another, we managed to get both the school exit and school reentry procedure times down to under five minutes within a couple of weeks! That was really impressive as our times for the first week floated around the 10-12 minutes mark!

The Results: Fun, Engaging, & Safe Recess Experiences

After a couple of months of this plan to rescues recess rolling out, here is what has been observable while out on duty:

  1. Students are taking advantage of the whole schoolyard. Whereas students would typically flock to the turf field, we were able to see that students were discovering new areas of our school’s recess yard and coming up with fun, creative activities for each area. Also, by having the students spread out across the entire yard, it just made the whole space feel so much bigger!
  2. Students are being creative with play. With only a limited amount of equipment to use (for now), students were inventing new and creative games to play in each of the play areas. Also, by stepping away from the “soccer-soccer-soccer” mentality, we were able to see an increase in students who were engaged in recess activities (i.e. the students who do not like soccer now had new ways to play with their peers).
  3. Students (and teachers) are adapting quickly to new procedures. Although the first couple of recess periods were pretty hectic, everyone quickly adapted to the new routines and procedures. Keys to this success included: a) a high level of teacher buy-in, b) a focus on clear goals (e.g. “let’s get the reentry down to six minutes”), c) applying a growth mindset and finding solutions to problems as they presented themselves.
  4. This FEELS like recess. Despite all of the changes, the procedures, the work involved, and the worry around it… we came out with a system that felt like normal recess. I know that “getting to normal” isn’t exactly an exciting goal, but it was a pretty darn important one in a year in which everything felt abnormal!

I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with recess this year. Again, I want to acknowledge the people who made this a reality:

  1. St. George’s School’s leadership for understanding – without needing convincing – that recess is a non-negotiable component of a healthy school day.
  2. All of the faculty members who listened in on my presentations, read my long emails and took initiative when the situation called for it to make this vision a reality.
  3. The students at St. George’s School for being the incredible, resilient champions that they are and for doing their part to help recess thrive at St.G’s.

There is still work to be done and challenges that will present themselves in the months ahead. That being said, I’m confident that we’ll be able to see the work through and keep recess alive at school.

This was the longest blog post I’ve ever written and I want to thank you for making it to this point. If you have any questions about anything I shared here, feel free to contact me on Twitter or via the Contact page.

Thanks for reading and Happy Teaching!

References

Barnas, J., Wunder,  C., Ball, S. (2018). In the zone: an investigation into physical activity during recess on traditional versus zoned playgrounds. The Physical Educator, 75(1):116–37

Bascia, N. (2014). The School Context Model: How School Environments Shape Students’ Opportunities to Learn. In Measuring What Matters, People for Education. Toronto: November 8, 2014

Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2016). Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. https://csepguidelines.ca/children-and-youth-5-17/

Clements, R. L. (2000). Elementary school recess; Selected readings, games, and activities for teachers and parents. Boston: American Press.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2020). A ‘new deal’ for education: top 10 policy moves for states in the COVID 2.0 era. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lindadarlinghammond/2020/05/19/a-new-new-deal-for-education-top-10-policy-moves-for-states-in-the-covid-20-era/#49790b886266

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Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. Having taught elementary physical education for 10 years, Joey is now focused on helping physical educators grow their confidence and competence as teachers.