A rallying cry for recess

November 10, 2014

In many public schools, the push around more standardized testing has chipped away at recess and lunch time--prompting a movement among educators and parents for increased play time for elementary school-aged kids. Educator Jesse Hagopian, editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, reports on a Seattle rally to defend lunch and recess time in a post at his I Am an Educator blog.

THE RALLY to defend lunch and recess time at the Seattle school board meeting on November 5 was an overwhelming success. A few dozen parents, teachers and kids rallied and testified with one message: eating and playing--lunch and recess--are human rights.

The school district began the meeting by announcing they would form a taskforce that would make a recommendation on lunch and recess times within 18 months. This absurdly long timeline to grant students their basic rights only inflamed the passions of the protesters.

Families from a diverse geographical representation of Seattle schools presented moving stories and convincing research to make an unassailable case to expand lunch and recess times in the Seattle Public Schools. One parent reveled that an audit conducted by parents in the Lunch and Recess Matter group over the last couple of weeks found some 50 schools in Seattle do not adhere to their own policy requiring a minimum of 20 minutes of time to eat. Parents announced that at one school, students at the back of the lunch line only had 5 minutes to scarf down their food before the bell rang. Others connected the loss of recess time to the increase in high-stakes testing. One African immigrant parent gave a first hand account of what it feels like to be starving and told the school board it was unacceptable that his son didn't receive enough time to eat and is then asked to throw away his food. He told his son that he was not allowed to throw the food away and a teacher would have to do it for him–and demanded that the school district allow his son the time he needed not to waste food. A student from a south end elementary school talked about recess, the wiggles, and how much fun it is to play. Another parent delivered over 1,600 signatures that were collected on the "Save Recess" petition.

Standing up for recess
Standing up for recess (Sarah Lang)

This movement is at the very beginning but has already shown great spirit and convincing arguments, including this op-ed by two of the new parent leaders, Dayna Provitt and Jana Robbins. The Lunch and Recess group has the potential to launch a whole new parent and teacher coalition to transform the schools to make them responsive to the communities they serve.

First published at I Am an Educator.

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