No Recess??

When we left the US in June, Anders had just completed the 2nd grade. In Norway, he started with 4th grade because they don’t have Kindergarten. Anders is a typical elementary school age boy. He likes to run, climb, bike, jump, play sports, play pretend games, etc. At his school in the US the children were given a 20-minute recess. Yes, 20 minutes, that is all!! Furthermore, in the colder months they stayed inside during recess 80% of the time that year. When they stayed inside they did not get to run and jump and move their bodies. Not surprisingly, I got quite a few notes home about how Anders could not sit still in class, and how he had a hard time keeping to himself. I would pick him up from school and he would be miserable, stating, “We didn’t get to go outside again. The teacher took a vote and mostly the girls wanted to stay in. There are more girls, so it just isn’t fair!” I was never able to justify that to him because I never thought that it was fair, so I could only commiserate with him. I also am perceptive enough to see that if the kids get to run around, move their bodies, and wear themselves out a little bit, they sit still and pay attention more. We parents easily noticed it yet the system is set up to work against itself. More and more, school was heading in the direction of only teaching for the tests, which obviously leaves little to no time for such frivolities as recess. We even got notes home about talking to our kids about testing, asking us to tell them to do their best, tell them their previous score so that they could beat the score, give them an “extra” nutritious breakfast, put them to bed earlier than normal. These kinds of demands are insane for children that age (and this can be fuel for a whole other blog post), but kids’ lack of being able to move around and use their bodies should also be considered when administering these oh so important tests. Would it not be prudent to look at the research that is out there about the importance of play and movement when it comes to learning? The school systems in the US seem to be repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot as they strive to reach a better educational standing of US students worldwide, and this is just one small but important thing that could be easily fixed to help classroom learning and behavior. Here in Norway, Anders has been enjoying the 4th grade. He has recess at least 3 times a day for at least 20 minutes a time. They always go outside, no matter what the weather is. He has been climbing trees, building snow forts, having snowball fights, playing soccer, basketball, and hide and seek type games. They do class hikes, and next week they are having a ski day and everyone is going cross-country skiing for the entire school day. He also has math, English, Norwegian, Science, Social Studies, and RLE (religion, spirituality, and ethics) everyday and has been learning just as much (if not more) than he was in the US. He comes home from school every day feeling satisfied, and has become much more socially mature (partially because he is growing up, but also because he is navigating his social life and negotiating conflict resolution without constant adult intervention). These changes have been extremely positive, much more so than I ever expected and really make our decision to move here feel like we did the right thing if for no other reason, than for Anders. This also makes me angry for all of Anders’ friends in the US, and my friends back home who have children in the public school system. I really hope that school systems will wake up and see how important active play is in a child’s life, and how it can enhance a child’s ability to sit still and absorb information in the classroom. There needs to be an outdoor recess everyday. I would also argue that there needs to be more than just one 20 minute recess a day as well, but first we need to get them outside.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/08/why-so-many-kids-cant-sit-still-in-school-today/

http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/newsroom/newsroom-content/2013/05/new-study–does-better-recess-equal-a-better-school-day-.html

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