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The Right To Play: New Rhode Island Law Requires Recess In Elementary Schools

Recess

Recess — it's not just a good idea for kids, it's the law.

At least it is in Rhode Island, where Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed legislation mandating at least 20 consecutive minutes of free play for every kid, every day in elementary schools. The law also allows school systems to count recess as instructional time so they do not have to extend the school day to meet the requirement.

"We recognize that adults need regular breaks from work — children need them more," Janice O'Donnell, a spokesperson for Recess for Rhode Island, told TODAY Parents. "Kids need to move. When they've had a break, children are more attentive in class and less likely to be disruptive."

O'Donnell, who advocated for the new law, says as a mother, grandmother and long-time educator, she has seen firsthand the benefits of recess for students: "It's how they learn to get along with others, control their impulses, and solve problems."

"We recognize that adults need regular breaks from work — children need them more,"said O'Donnell. "It is more physically exerting for a six year old to sit still for a half hour than to run and climb for fifteen minutes. Kids need to move. When they've had a break, children are more attentive in class and less likely to be disruptive."

Susan Connole teaches third grade in Rhode Island, and says many of her students do not get an opportunity to play outside in a safe area after school. Despite the clear benefits of recess time, Connole's students received only about five minutes of recess time per day last year.

"I found it difficult to schedule in my own recess block when there is so much to be taught in third grade," said Connole. "Now, thankfully, I won't have to worry about that."

Connole says she is looking forward to the mandatory block of recess time, as she sees recess as a time for students to connect with new friends they may not sit next to in the classroom.

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