It’s long been obvious that the most acute problem facing America’s education system is recess: Too many children engage in rough-and-tumble games during school play periods. Thankfully, two elementary schools in Minnesota are pioneering a promising program, spearheaded by expert play consultants, to finally make recess safe and inclusive for all students. The Star Tribune reports:
Two Edina elementary schools, worried about the politics of the playground, are taking an unusual step to police it: They have hired a recess consultant.
Some parents have welcomed the arrival of the firm Playworks, which says recess can be more inclusive and beneficial to children if it’s more structured and if phrases like, “Hey, you’re out!” are replaced with “good job” or “nice try.” […]
The two schools have joined a growing number of districts that have hired consultants to remake the playground experience into more structured and inclusive play time. The games and activities, like four square and jumping rope, are overseen by adults and designed to reduce disciplinary problems while ensuring that no children are left out.
We have been encouraged that over the past few years, some elementary schools have banned or discouraged aggressive games like tag and dodgeball, and that other schools have created more inclusive game options like “circle of friends.” But tinkering around the edges is not enough; as the Star Tribune notes, many children still struggle with competitive play, like four-square, which can make less athletically gifted students feel excluded. It’s time for more schools to hire firms like Playworks to manage and regulate recess, cut down on the available spaces for students to experiment with possibly dangerous activities, and, ultimately, make all play inclusive and supervised. After all, students are unlikely to be confronted with serious challenges or competition once they leave school and enter the twenty-first century workforce.
Colleges are increasingly coming around to the idea that young people shouldn’t be exposed to any activity that might make them feel uncomfortable. This is a good start, but it’s too little, too late; there is no reason why the coddling process shouldn’t start earlier. We’ll be watching the experiment at these two elementary schools, and we hope that other schools follow suit.