Readers — As a gal who is ALWAYS shivering, and wears a million layers, and did not particularly love recess back in my Chicago youth — but who has come to wholeheartedly endorse outdoor time now — I feel bad for the kids in this county:
Dear Free-Range Kids: Question for you about outdoor/indoor recess policies.
I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, where it is rarely below 25 degrees by the middle of the day. And yet, there are many days when the elementary school kids have “indoor recess” (which means that they sit in their classrooms). A friend of mine started a petition (see: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MCPS-Parents-Support-Outdoor-Recess-in-the-Cold/164312570280330 and http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/MCPS-Parents-Support-Outdoor-Recess/) to encourage the County to send kids out even when it’s cold. (Let’s be clear: this is Maryland: we’re talking about days when it is in the upper 20s/low 30s and sunny–or even overcast).
Last night at a PTA meeting we brought up the subject with the principal and got into a surreal discussion in which a few parents noted that “perhaps boys need to go out for recess, but when my daughter goes outside in the cold, she shivers.” It occurs to me that we’ve reached a really strange place where “shivering” is considered remarkable (and upsetting) enough to note in a public meeting. And the implications that only boys need exercise/run-around/non-programmed educational time during the day is simply appalling to me. The principal noted that her para-educators (who staff recess) go outside in the morning to make sure it is “comfortable” (her word). When I asked why they couldn’t still go outside even if it wasn’t “comfortable,” she said it was her job to keep the children safe. She was not able to articulate (at least to my satisfaction) what was “unsafe” about going outside when it’s cold outside, given that the children are wearing coats and hats (or they could be, if they actually went outside).
So here’s my question: Do you have (or know where I could find) any data showing what school systems around the country have in terms of “go outside for recess in the cold” policies? I think it will be helpful as we pursue this conversation to have some information that isn’t simply anecdotal (i.e. I’m from Wisconsin and we went outside all the time).
Thanks for any insights you & your readers might have. All best, Sarah
Sarah — Someone did send me this USA Today piece on the differing policies about temperature and recess. But maybe some readers have other good ideas on how make your county (and principal) understand that recess is important. Let us know what transpires! I am shivering (per usual) in anticipation. — L