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Letter to the Editor: 'They Got Rid of Recess'

A mother of two Mohegan Elementary School students asks the Board of Education to reinstate full daily recess.

On the first day of school my daughters came home and said "they got rid of recess."  Their disappointment was obvious. I spoke with other parents and their teachers to confirm this, and sure enough recess at Mohegan School had been dramatically reduced. The students of Mohegan school went from having 30 minutes of recess 5 days a week, down to 3 days of recess per week for 15 minutes. Once you include transition time, the kids are lucky to have 10 minutes of activity. I then reached out to parents of other elementary schools in town to find if this change was district wide, that was not the case. Mohegan school was the only school to implement this reduction. Why? I could not find any resource that stated there was a benefit to removing recess.   

The timing of recess is not what is best for the students either. I have a 4th grader who has recess an hour after getting to school. This is the time in which she is ready to learn, not have recess. My 1st grader went from half day kindergarten to all day class. She has recess after 3:00, after she has been sitting in a class room all day and is now ready to go home. These students need the break in the middle of the day, after they have spent their morning learning, testing, and exploring.

What I did find was that students perform better on testing, were better behaved, and learn to socially interact in a non-structured environment. I also learned per the National Association for Sports and Physical Education that recess also gives our children the opportunity to communicate, negotiate, problem solve, learn to take turns and follow rules, and conflict resolution. Following up with the school I was told the children are supposed get 2- 15 minute energy bursts each day. In talking with other parents and students I found that is not the case. If they do the energy bursts at all they are often only 5 minutes of structured physical activity. Per the guidelines from the CT State Department of Education, these energy bursts are not a suitable replacement for recess.

Recess has always been a chance for students to get out the classroom for some unstructured fun with peers. Imagine if you had a day where every minute was accounted for, there was no down time, no free choice, no mental break from the daily routine. That is what these kids have, they don’t have the chance for down time or a daily mental break. They are told how, when, and for how long to do these energy bursts. During lunch they are told where to sit and when they can talk. These children have no freedom to make any decisions.

We have recently started a petition and begun gathering signatures. Mr. Burr, and fellow members of the board, we ask that you intervene in this matter and reinstate daily 30 minute recess at Mohegan school by the end of December.

--Aimee Cayer

Jane Cheetham November 30, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I can't help but remember when I moved here 5 years ago that the motto at Mohegan School was "The school with a heart". The 1st paragraph of the Misson Statement is still the same..." The mission of our school is to provide a learning environment where members of the Mohegan family grow academically, socially and physically.  Let us dedicate ourselves daily to foster individual growth and happiness so that each of us may be a positive force in our society". There must be a way that the administration and parent representatives can sit down and map out a schedule that puts back the heart of Mohegan School, making it stronger and healthy for alll elementary students, academically, socially, and physically. Afterall, elementary school is the foundation that our children build their love for education and begin to make lifestyle choices. Unstructured time; hence recess, is a vital part of that development.
Katherine Rennie November 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Mohegan Alum- I completely agree. I graduated in the top of my class at SHS and in the top 10% at Providence College this past May. I always considered myself very smart, but guess who got a job before I did? All of my friends that were not as "book smart" & didn't have stellar grades, but were more socially connected and had better people-skills. Obviously for elemenrary school age kids, you can hardly call them social connections and people-skills, but what is important is the foundation that is laid for these skills to develop later in life.
Lori McKeon November 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Very well stated Jane. I agree completely.
Jennifer Pereira December 03, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Aimee: Where can I sign this petition? Jenn Pereira
Aimee Cayer December 04, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Jennifer, I have a copy at my house and there are a few other parents circulating it as well. My number is in the Mohegan handbook under plant sale and girl scout co-ordinator.

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