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Letter To The Editor: Recess

Voice Media
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December 6, 2017

As a mother of an elementary school student in the Severna Park area, I am a member of a recess committee. This research committee group was created last year by mothers of elementary school children from multiple schools in Severna Park. The goal of the research committee is to eventually convince the Anne Arundel County Board of Education to add extra recess to the school day.

The purpose of this letter is to inform other parents in the Severna Park community, along with parents of elementary school children throughout Anne Arundel County, of the research-based evidence conducted by our committee, the benefits of recess and the benefits of recess before lunch.

Our recess committee applauds the Board of Education for all its efforts, including the recess committee that it has appointed. We have the support of local Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) mothers and local elementary schools in the county, including Pasadena and Glen Burnie schools. Additionally, the purpose of the article is to gauge more interest and support from other parents in the community and the county.

Many Severna Park parents are pushing for added breaks during the school day; most importantly, unstructured play. We are working toward a long-term goal of added recess time to our children's school day. The recess committee has been working toward these goals throughout the last two school years and during summer break.

As of now, the board has allotted only a single 20-minute recess per day, and there is no recess at middle schools. Annapolis Middle School began a pilot recess program in fall 2015, as students had recess three days a week, to improve academics and behavior, according to the school’s principal in a local newspaper article dated March 21, 2016. School officials said the program ended due to a lack of resources and logistics.

Through our research committee’s outreach, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee has advised us regarding the new wellness policy and administrative procedure from the Prince George’s County Board of Education, which recommends 30 minutes of recess (minimum of 20 minutes), with recess always before lunch. We’re hoping Anne Arundel County will soon follow their lead, and be a trailblazer in Maryland in terms of increasing the quantity and duration of recess breaks.

The recess committee is advocating the following proposals: adding two 20-minute recess breaks per day; the possibility of adding recess to early dismissal days for elementary schools (there are some elementary schools in the county that have recess on early dismissal days as well as specials); not watching movies on the days that our children have indoor recess; making better use of a school’s facility, to include any open space and playground areas; the possibility of extra recess on the one day a week our children do not have specials; and recess always before lunch.

Our recess committee members found schools within the county and throughout the U.S. with extra recess time and posted their schedule to the recess committee. There are charter schools within our county that already have two recess breaks in place.

Extensive research conducted by our recess committee has yielded the following information. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) support that recess offers social and emotional benefits as children dream up ideas and resolve conflicts during play. The AAP states that recess increases focus, relieves stress and curbs obesity. The AAP believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

According to the AAP, after recess, children are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom setting. Several AAP studies demonstrate that recess/unstructured play, whether performed indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and more productive in the classroom.

With regards to recess always before lunch, AAP research shows that when students have recess before lunch, more time is taken for lunch and there is less food waste. In addition, AAP researchers and teachers have noted that there was an improvement in student behavior at meal time, which carried into the classroom in the afternoon. AAP research proves that any type of recess activity benefited cognitive performance afterward.

For more information on how you can contribute to this effort of the recess committee, contact mkordmafi@verizon.net and moirabs@yahoo.ca.

Mahpari Kordmafi-Bradford and Moira Buttner-Schnirer
Severna Park

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