I’m of the belief that pretty much anything — no matter how obscure or abstract — can be organized. Dog food? Easily done. Thoughts? With a lot of practice. Worries? Most certainly.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never considered organizing recess. In fact, it wasn’t until my friend Martha directed me to the article “Study Weighs Benefits of Organizing Recess” in Education Week (it’s free to register to see the full article) that I was even aware people wanted to organize recess. Why would someone organize recess?
It turns out, through study by researchers at Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research, that organized recess improves transition times back to classroom learning and reduces bullying. From the article:
The study found that, on average, teachers at participating schools needed about 2.5 fewer minutes of transition time between recess and learning time — a difference that researchers termed statistically significant. Over the course of a school year, that can add up to about a day of class time.
Teachers at schools with the [organized recess] program found that there was significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess than teachers at schools without it, but not a reduction in more general aggressive behavior.
How does one organize recess? Schools start by hiring a “full-time recess coach,” who is usually an Americorps volunteer trained by Playworks (a California-based organization that develops organized recess programs). The full-time coach can also be a member of the school staff who has gone through the training program. Then:
The coaches map the area where students spend recess, setting boundaries for different activities, such as kickball. They help children pick teams using random measures, such as students’ birth months, to circumvent emotionally scarring episodes of being chosen based on skill or popularity. If conflicts arise, coaches teach simple ways to settle disputes and preempt some quibbles by teaching games including rock-paper-scissors.
Forty percent of the surveyed teachers said students used the rock-paper-scissors game to resolve conflicts or make decisions when they were back in class.
Organizing recess is certainly an interesting topic and one I had never considered before reading this article. It seems to make recess more like camp or gym class, which were both things I enjoyed as a kid. Mostly what I thought about as I read the article, though, was how much fun it would be to have the job of recess coordinator — you’d get paid to play at recess.