Wednesday’s first day of school came with an unexpected twist as parents of students at RP Connor Elementary School in Suffern were surprised to find out from their children at the end of the school day that “Structured Recess” was being implemented for their children in grades 3-5.
According to the email that parents received during the early evening hours and after many RP Connor students had arrived home expressing their concern to their parents, a structured recess plan was being implemented which essentially consists of “planned, inclusive and actively supervised games.”
Structured recess has been implemented at various schools and districts throughout the country with varied levels of success and is often viewed as controversial.
There are those who champion the effort claiming that disciplinary and bullying issues decrease, children are engaged and active which leads to healthier outcomes.
Meanwhile there are those who feel that children need unstructured downtime to play with friends in other classes, pursue non-athletic activities and to expand their minds and imaginations while engaging in creative pursuits.
A New York Times article discusses “The Blessing and Curse of Structured Recess.” A Huffington Post writer initially was against structured recess before reversing his stance to support it.
There is an organization called Playworks that has been in operation for 21 years whose mission is essentially to “provide safe, inclusive activities for students who have trouble making friends and participating in recess on their own.” Playworks provides playground coaches who organize and supervise structured recess activities at schools in at least 21 states across the country.
Many studies have been conducted and experts clearly don’t concur as to whether or not structured recess produces more positive outcomes than negative ones. The lack of clear-cut information from the school or experts has left many parents scratching their heads.
For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls recess “a necessary break from the physical and mental demands of a typical day at school.” The statement, adds that “recess should be a period of free, unstructured play.”
Meanwhile an article in Education Week that promotes the Idea of structured recess cites a study from Stanford University that found that “organized recess improves transition times back to classroom learning and reduces bullying.”
Sources have told us that there was such an uproar by parents opposed to the plan who took to social media, placed telephone calls and emails to the school and the school district that RP Connor Principal Kelly Dowd visited classrooms and spoke with 4th and 5th grade students regarding the new initiative. By the end of the day an update had been posted outlining changes to the program offering students more choice or the opportunity to engage in free, unstructured play.
As the issue gained momentum including almost 100 responses to the original post, parents of children at other district elementary schools chimed in with their thoughts. Although strictly a program being implemented at RP Connor, the vast majority of parents were decidedly against the idea and are opposed to the possibility of structured recess spreading to other schools. There were a few neutral opinions and essentially a ‘let’s give it a chance’ suggestion.
A number of parents reached out to us to express their displeasure despite the subsequent changes to the program however none wanted their name in print faring retaliation.
“We had no say and there was no discussion with parents, none! Kids need to be kids and they need to unwind.”
“This was poorly handled, as an educator I would expect the principal to educate the parents first. Even after the bumbling we still don’t know why they want it and what it will do for (our) kids.”
“I don’t know if it’s good to (sic) bad, we deserve to be consulted before this happens.”
“What I don’t like is the spin in the letter we got today. My daughter told us the principal came to them but the letter said that the kids were happy that they could come to her but she went to them after we all complained. If I want spin I’ll watch Fox News.”
Yet another parent was undecided but open to the idea: “we should try it to see what happens. It could be a good idea.”
We reached out to and left a message for RP Connor principal Kelly Dowd in order to learn more about the program, the reasoning behind it and any potential benefits it was expected to reap however we did not receive a call back.