By Caralee Adams, Instructor Magazine
Each day in the classroom kids are being told: “Be quiet. Sit still. Be quiet. Sit still,” says Nelly Torres, a parent of a first and a fourth grader in the Chicago Public Schools. “That’s because they need their recess.”
Torres, 42, still lives in the same neighborhood she grew up in. Back then, kids had recess twice a day. “It taught me how to get along with others-whites, African-Americans. Nowadays, kids don’t know how to socialize among other groups,” she says.
There was no recess at her children’s school until last year when Torres and others lobbied and got a 10-minute break for the kids once a day. “They need to have a chance to burn off some energy,” she says. Being able to run around and swing on the monkey bars helps kids better focus in the classroom, maintains Torres-and research backs that up.
Yet recess has been scaled back or cut altogether in a number of schools around the country. The trend can be traced back to the late eighties and was accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Districts under pressure to show academic progress began to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Others eliminated recess because of concerns about safety, lack of supervision, and subpar playground equipment.