Sunday, January 29, 2012

I had been staring at the computer and had not written a logical or thoughtful word for this column. Then the telephone rang and Janelle Thompson invited me to go cross-country skiing with her. When I returned home an hour later the column almost wrote itself.
Recess time! If you are like me, you remember recess as a most enjoyable, important part of your school day.  In the early fall, I dug in the soft dirt under huge trees and imagined conversations with fairies and leprechauns.  During recess time I learned a lot about myself. I could swing to the greatest heights, flying like a bird. I could hang from the monkey bars upside down until my face turned red with the effort. I could survive skinned knees, receiving kindness and a band-aide from my teacher. I could jump rope ‘salt and pepper’ and I could run away from the boys.  I came inside after my exertions red faced and breathless, the blood coursing through my veins and into my brain. Recess made me physically ready to learn.
In contrast, children today are lucky to have ten or fifteen minutes of outdoor playtime during the school day. In the winter months, I have seen children come to school without appropriate warm clothing for playing out of doors. These little ones huddle near the doorway with no hat, mittens, or boots until the end of recess or until they are allowed back inside.
We wonder about the upswing in childhood obesity, the increase in heart disease, and the increase in childhood diabetes. We wonder why we have a generation of children who can’t entertain themselves, have social difficulties, and are fidgety and off task in the classroom.
In the late 1980s, some schools cut back on recess to allow more instructional time. This trend accelerated with the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001. Some schools, afraid of low test scores sought to improve scores by having children spend more time at their desks on schoolwork. However, the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) found no research to support such assumptions that keeping children in the classroom could improve test performance.


Up through the ground, creep, creep, creep.
The sleepy little groundhog peek, peek, peeks
If he sees his shadow
and the sun is bright.
He jumps down his hole
and is out of sight.

Up through the ground, creep, creep, creep.
The sleepy little groundhog peek, peek, peeks
If there is no shadow
and the clouds hide the sun
He jumps out of his hole
and he’s ready for fun.

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