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Thinking Outside the Recess Box

Paula Gordon,   Fred Assam Elementary School
Physical Activity Participation

As an elementary physical educator, I have observed many, many children as they move, through the day, in Physical Education class twice a week and on the playground. Seeing children at play during recess was interesting. They love the snow hill, snow moved off the pavement and piled in a big “hill”.  The snow hill is lumpy, slippery, and somewhat dangerous, so it comes with lots of rules, but children need to climb on “non-standardized” things for the brain to have opportunities to gauge and motor plan. It is a form of “heavy work”, which also helps children develop proprioception, a sense of knowing where their body is in relation to other parts of the body. Instead of banning the hill for safety reasons, we use common sense “rules” and require children at play to make decisions of their own. If they don’t feel safe, on the hill or any other activity, they know not to engage themselves in that activity and to find something else to do. There is also the “snow fort” building phenomenon. Kids love to build “forts” and took pride and ownership of the fort. I lead a PE class on fort-building, using buckets and trash baskets to build a fort. Each grade level had a wall to build and we watched it grow. The goal was to engage children in more heavy work, as well as cooperation and teamwork. They learned how a simple bucket helped build blocks and snow had to be packed between the cracks as mortar. Now, when they have snow on the playground, they can’t wait to build a fort. Other ways we have “Ramped Up Recess” this year include thinking outside the box for playground equipment and supervision.  We purchased a GaGa pit and secured it to the playground pavement. Kids know the rules and play with peer referees. They take turns and when they are out, they climb over the pit wall and wait for their next turn back into the pit.  FAE Student Council purchased two sets of soccer nets adding an increased opportunity for team play and an additional sport available to play at recess. The principal bought several plastic sleds, and when students earn an “extra” recess, they often go to the back of the school and sled down the hill. The PTA brought in a speaker who specializes on “play”. She shared ideas with teachers and parents on the importance of “play” and a wide variety of play examples. We will be having a family “Pancakes and Play” night in mid-March, to encourage a variety of play. We have shared our “play” in monthly newsletters and on our Facebook page and website. Staff and parents are all learning more about the importance of play and heavy work in the development of our children and children are getting more opportunities to play!!!

How did students and adults work together as a team?

The staff and PTA worked together to learn more about the importance of recess. They pooled resources and purchased a GaGa pit, sleds and snowfort building blocks.

How do you plan to make this Play last during the school year and beyond?

The equipment will last for many years, especially the Ga Ga pit.