Restore Recess: A Movement is Born

You have heard about Seattle’s fight for a $15 minimum wage, or the teachers who organized a mass boycott of the MAP test. But you might not be aware of the newest movement–organized for one of the most basic human rights–that was recently ignited in the emerald city: The struggle for the right to play.

Parents and educators across Seattle are taking action to defend their children’s right to ample time for recess and lunch. Parents and students at Whittier Elementary school set this movement in motion when they voiced objection to the school reducing lunch and recess time from 40 minutes to half an hour–gaining important local TV and media attention. Parents at Leschi Elementary soon launched an online petition that has gathered nearly a thousand signatures in a few short days. Now there is a city-wide organization of parents, students, and teachers called, “Lunch and Recess Matter.” Lunch and Recess Matter is organizing a rally at the Seattle School District headquarters before the November 5th school board meeting (If you have a message of solidarity, relevant research, or attend a school with an important recess story, please contact me).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an editorial for the Seattle Times, with the headline, “Schools Need to Learn the Importance of Recess” where I pointed out preparation for high-stakes exams is leaving little time for students to solve problems on the playground. Now there are over a dozen schools in the district with less than 20 minuets of recess time. I also pointed to the fact that the fastest shrinking recesses are in school the serve predominantly low-income and students of color. I could have never known that it would contribute so quickly to such vibrant organization across the school district. All the research backs up this nascent movement in Seattle for recess, including findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics that “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.”

It is now clear that parents and educators are no longer willing to see their children’s education and health be degraded through the gradual elimination of recess. It’s time for the Seattle School District–and districts across the nation–to listen to the research, the parents, the students, and the educators: restore recess now!