Obesity, bullying and bad behavior are problems plaguing our nation's schools. Now one nonprofit says they've got a solution: Hire a coach for recess!
According to the New York Times, a growing trend on schoolyards across the country is the hiring of a recess coach, who directs children in organized games during recess. Says one principal in N.J.: "Before, I was seeing nosebleeds, busted lips and students being a danger to themselves and others. Now, Coach Brandi does miracles with twenty cones and three handballs."
Playworks, a nonprofit group out of Calif., developed the program. According to the article, they have 170 schools in low-income areas of several cities, including Boston, Washington and Los Angeles.
And it's not just Playworks that is emphasizing physical activity during recess: Florida's Broward County schools jettisoned recess altogether in 2007 in exchange for 30 minutes of teacher-supervised physical activity.
Although parents and teachers have mostly been supportive of the program, some critics argue that the purpose of recess is to allow kids to unwind during the school day. "I just can't imagine going through the entire day without a break, whether you're an adult or a child," says Maria Costa, a mother of three who says her daughter is stressed out by the mandate to exercise. "It's just not natural."
Dr. Romina M. Barros, an assistant clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, seconds that. She says that kids benefit the most from recess when they are left alone to daydream, solve problems, use their imagination to invent their own games and "be free to do what they choose to do." Transferring the rules of the classroom to the playground doesn't help. "You still have to pay attention," she says. "You still have to follow rules. You don't have that time for your brain to relax."
A spokesperson for Playworks disputes this, saying their program still "allows for [kids'] creativity," adding, "In some cases, we're teaching children how to play if they can't go to the park because it's drug-infested, or their parents can't afford to send them to activities."
What do you think?