The American Academy of Pediatrics and numerous other professional and pediatric groups have been advocating for more recess and unstructured playtime saying, “Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.”
Dr. Sarah Lazarus is a pediatrician and started a Facebook group Parents for Play where she encourages parents to come together to discuss and advocate for extending recess for elementary students in DeKalb and Georgia.
Dr. Lazarus was recently featured in the AJC saying,
“The AAP explains that children who get regular recess are healthier, better able to focus, and develop the social and emotional skills necessary to be engaged learners. Research also shows that children learn better following a break for physical activity. During recess, children develop social and problem-solving skills that cannot be taught in the classroom, and these result in increased academic success. When children are given ample opportunities to move and play, their ability to focus improves greatly.
Children from Finland have some of the highest scores on international standardized tests, much higher that the children in the United States. There, they provide 15 minutes of recess for every hour children are in the classroom. Recently, at an elementary school in Texas, based on the Finnish curriculum, recess was increased to 60 minutes a day with four 15-minute breaks for children to go outside and play.”
Stacy Stepney is the Director of Elective and Special Instruction. She tells us about recess at DeKalb Schools.
Question: How much recess/unstructured playtime is allotted to elementary students every day?
Stacy Stepney: Schools must schedule a minimum of 15 minutes of supervised, unstructured break time each day to promote physical, social, and academic development. The unstructured break time involves children’s choice of activities whether indoors or outdoors. It is recommended that the unstructured breaks occur between periods of relatively rigorous academic time. The District does not support withholding these breaks for disciplinary or academic reasons.
Question: Are there state laws or board policy governing recess/unstructured playtime?
Stacy Stepney: According to Board policy IEDA-Unstructured Break Time, the District supports supervised, unstructured break times for students in kindergarten through grade five. Currently, the Board policy stipulates that the school day cannot be extended to provide the supervised, unstructured breaks.
The State Board of Education Rule 160-5-1-.02 mandates the following based upon a 180-day school year: Kindergarten through third grade students shall not have less than a daily average of 4.5 hours (270 minutes) of instruction time. Fourth and fifth grade students shall not have less than a daily average of 5 hours (300 minutes) of instruction time.
Question: Who at the school level or district level can make the decision to increase unstructured playtime?
Stacy Stepney: Dr. Green would direct staff to collaborate with stakeholders (district, school, parents, community partners, and students) to review and revise Board policy IEDA-Unstructured Break Time. If there are recommended changes, the committee will present the information to Dr. Green for consideration before submitting a proposed policy change to the Board of Education for review and approval.
Question: What can parents do at the school level or county level to extend unstructured playtime for elementary students?
Stacy Stepney: [ repeated answer from last question] Dr. Green would direct staff to collaborate with stakeholders (district, school, parents, community partners, and students) to review and revise Board policy IEDA-Unstructured Break Time. If there are recommended changes, the committee will present the information to Dr. Green for consideration before submitting a proposed policy change to the Board of Education for review and approval.