Dear Midland Parents
My name is Summer and I have two boys in MISD elementary schools. When I moved to Midland I was surprised to learn how our schools ranked. Having spent my entire career in education, all my instincts were telling me MISD needed help and there are actionable changes the district could do to improve.
Of the ideas I had, one thing that jumped out as an easy idea to help was to increase the recess time given to elementary kids. Most schools in MISD provide elementary students with ONE 15 minute recess break after lunch. Our kids attend school for 7 1/2 hours per day! One short break isn’t enough. Research shows that kids who have regularly scheduled breaks in their day perform better academically and benefit socially, emotionally, and behaviorally as well.
Yes, we want our children to be educated, like all parents do, but we also find value in giving kids regularly scheduled, unstructured breaks in order to keep up with ever increasing demands of school. We also know schools in Texas are already seeing positive results by increasing recess minutes. Some schools even in Midland are already providing longer than 15 minutes per day.
If you would like to help, keep reading!
Adults get breaks at work and this helps them focus. Adults typically get an hour break for lunch and can take additional breaks as needed to refocus, use the restroom, get drinks, and chat at the water cooler. These short breaks help you stay focused on getting your work done – and kids need breaks too.
Having breaks like recess actually help kids focus more at school. I have included links to much of this research below for your review.
When I realized how little recess our children get compared to schools across the country, I began hoping to improve this situation for our children and sought out the principals at the schools my children attend. In addition, I emailed the superintendent, Orlando Riddick, who acknowledged that he’s aware of the benefits of recess. He directed me to meet with the Executive Directors of Elementary Education and the Director of Health and Wellness. So I did.
In this short time period, I’ve met key decision makers, principals, and parents. Everyone agrees that we need more recess time for our students and some schools have enacted change already. Some schools are providing 30 minutes of recess while others are still providing 15 minutes. I’m advocating for increased recess time for all K-6 students.
This is where we need YOUR help and participation. I’ve spoken to some of you about this concern and you’ve asked, “How can I help?” Now I have the answer. I’m asking for all parents (moms, dads, and even preschool parents who will be in Kindergarten in the next few years) to email your child’s principal and let them know you support adding recess minutes to your school.
Let the principal know you support them and support increasing the amount of recess our children get every day!
Further reading on the benefits of recess and FAQs can be found below.
Research Supporting Recess
No Recess for Recess
For children with ADHD, the endangered school recess is an essential activity that improves focus and behavior in the classroom. One expert explains why it needs to stick around.
Guide to Recess Planning in Schools (US Department of Health and Human Services and Society of Health and Physical Educators)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. My kids have PE every week, isn’t that good enough?
A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes per day of “moderate to vigorous activity” and recognizes the role of recess as being an integral piece of how kids meet this recommendation. In fact, in this study recess was shown to provide children with 30% more activity minutes than a standard physical education program.
I’ve conducted my own research into the question as well. I gave my son a pedometer (FitBit) to wear to school and we saw the difference in his activity minutes in recess vs. physical education. For the allotted PE minutes per week (135 min), he was active for 10 min or more 21% of the time. For the allotted recess minutes per week (75 min), he was active for 10 min or more 48% of the time. This wasn’t a randomized, controlled study and I recognize I had a sample size of a whopping 1 student, however I think it represents reality in our schools currently.
Let’s also take a minute here to recognize the value of PE. A quality physical education program is important in teaching kids skills in learning new sports, practice time, stretching routines, teamwork, sportsmanship, resiliency, and more. However, PE class is not effective at giving kids the unstructured break, mentally and physically, they need from the demands of being at school over 7 hours per day.
Q. Aren’t there programs online that help kids in this way?
A. I’m advocating for regularly scheduled, unstructured recess, preferably outdoors. There are online sites such as GoNoodle , however they are structured. Sites such as gonoodle require students to stare at a screen, all while being told when and how to move. This option could be used as supplementary in the classroom, but shouldn’t be relied upon as meeting the children’s needs on a daily basis.
Harvard Medical School promotes the benefits of recess as free, unstructured, active and creative time, not sitting in front of a TV or screen.
Q. What about our teachers, do they support this?
A. We only have minimal feedback on this right now since only a few classrooms in MISD are giving more than 15 minutes. Of the teacher’s we’ve spoken to directly they have told us, “Thank You!” They indicate giving kids the extra break(s) is, “Just what the kids have needed.” Schools that participate in LiinkProject report, “I have a better attitude about my job. Knowing I’ll only be in the classroom for 45 minutes to an hour, then I’ll get a break too!”
Q. Do other schools have more recess than ours?
A. In Texas, there is research coming from TCU showing the amazing benefits of allowing kids to have four 15 minute “breaks” per day. More than a dozen schools around Dallas and some in Oklahoma are experiencing positive results from ProjectLiink. Teachers, parents, and students all see the positive outcomes from giving kids the opportunity to play and have a break. They are seeing increased focus in the classroom, more on-task behaviors, and overall positive social and emotional feelings about wanting to come to school everyday. Please take a moment to click the link and see the benefits of Project Liink through their parent page!
Also, some schools in MISD are already giving kids 30 minutes per day. These schools should be held up as models for all schools in the district.
Some districts in Texas have recently modified their Board policies to include a separate and distinct recess policy that requires minimum minutes each day.
Q. Will this cost more for schools or taxpayers?
A. I’m advocating for adding more regularly scheduled, unstructured recess, preferably outdoors.
Recess is free. The playgrounds are already on campuses. There won’t be any additional expenses to the schools or districts. Children may desire additional recess equipment (balls) which could be purchased through PTA funds.
Q. Isn’t playing only for little kids? Do 11 year olds really need to play?
A. While some may feel that recess should only be allotted to our youngest children, research shows the benefits to kids and adolescents is similar. “Although specified time afforded for recess diminishes with age, the benefits of periodic breaks in the academic day to optimize cognitive processing applies equally to adolescents and to younger children.”
Q. I’ve heard MISD has a Student Health Advisory Committee. What do they think?
A. MISD’s Student Health Advisory Committee is addressing concerns this year as it relates to mental health. I’ve attended several meetings and will be presenting on the topic of recess soon. In the meantime, I think we can do a lot for our youngest children’s mental health by giving them more unstructured, outdoor, recess – for all students Grades K-6!
Do you want to help? Are you willing to help your kids and be a recess hero? I’m asking you to email your child’s principal and let them know you support increasing the recess minutes during the school day.
Q. I don’t feel comfortable writing an email myself, do you have a sample?
A. Why yes, we do – Sample Email to Principal
Q. What Else Can I Do?
A. Communicate support to the educational leaders in MISD. You may send individual emails to the leaders below, or send one email and copy the group below.
1. Email your school’s principal and let him/her know you support increasing our recess minutes.
2. Email your child’s teacher and let him/her know you support increasing our recess minutes.
3. Email our superintendent and let him know you support increasing our recess minutes. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Email your Board of Trustee representative and let him/her know you support increasing our recess minutes and would be in favor of increasing recess time in all K-6 classrooms in MISD.
Finally – if you’ve made it all the way here and are still wondering what monkey bars and test scores have in common, read this!
Our community leaders need to hear from parents in a positive, kind, and respectful way. Let’s all work together to be on the same team in an effort to help our kids succeed!