Rhode Island Makes Recess Legally Mandatory for Children
In recent years, recess has taken a backseat to an increased academic workload in many American schools, however that’s about to change in one U.S. state.
Several groups including Recess for Rhode Island lobbied for the “Ocean State” to legally mandate that all schoolchildren are required to have an uninterrupted 20 minute period of free play each day.
A spokesperson for the group, Janice O’Donnell, explained their motivation.
“We recognize that adults need regular breaks from work — children need them more. Kids need to move. When they’ve had a break, children are more attentive in class and less likely to be disruptive,” said O’Donnell.
Third grade teacher Susan Connole was a major proponent of the measure, explaining how challenging it was to find time for scheduled recess before the time was legally mandated.
“I found it difficult to schedule in my own recess block when there is so much to be taught in third grade. Now, thankfully, I won’t have to worry about that,” said Connole.
Beyond lobbyists and education professionals, many parents supported the measure as well. Amanda Fornier, a parent of two special needs children, described their previous recess experiences negatively. “In our school, lunch was 25 minutes long and recess was 15 minutes. Really, after putting on coats and lining up and walking through the school quietly, they were lucky if they get 10 minutes outside.”
Fornier went on to stress how important she felt recess was to her children’s learning environment saying, “Learning is hard work, and all children benefit from recess. It’s not just playing hopscotch or bouncing a ball — it’s almost like hitting a reset button.”
Thanks to support from those like Connole and Fornier, Rhode Island’s governor, Gina Raimondo (pictured), recently signed the legislation into law. A spokesperson for the governor said of the measure, “As a mother of young children, Governor Raimondo knows how important recess can be to helping kids stay focused during the day. Recess provides students with an opportunity to run outside and play, so they can limit distractions when they are back in the classroom.”
For their part, O’Donnell and Recess For Rhode Island say they’re not finished pushing for reform.
“Ideally, we would like to see more than twenty minutes a day for recess. Thirty to forty minutes a day is optimum for elementary school children. We would also like explicit language that recess can never be denied to a class or individual for disciplinary reasons. Very often, the child who is disrupting the class is the child who needs recess the most,” said O’Donnell.