Recess returns to Chicago Public Schools

October 26, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The plan to lengthen the school day will help create more time for that playtime break in between classes.

ABC7 visited a school where students are reaping the benefits of recess and another school that is eager to bring it back.

A number of CPS schools already offer playtime for students. Now, however, all CPS grammar and middle schools will be offering at least 20 minutes of recess daily next fall. Charter schools already incorporate recess into their curriculum

Namaste Charter School in McKinley Park has been offering students recess for the past eight years. School officials say recess provides opportunity for activity through structured play and socialization.

"We believe in, it's not just free time, free for all, it's free time with a purpose," said Abby Rose, Namaste Charter School.

Namaste recently hired Chelsea Easter, a recess coach who encourages kids to play soccer, touch football and tag and to use jump ropes, balls and hula hoops. She also helps the students to resolve fights.

"We introduce games, teach them the rules to all the games, but also we teach them how to interact with each other," said Easter.

Coach Easter selects junior student coaches to help guide the children in successful playtime.

"I asked to help out the little kids," said Samantha LaPage, Namaste student.

"You have to help younger kids, make sure they are not being violent, make sure they are peaceful," said Mary Hynds, Namaste student.

"The science tells us the kids who move their bodies, when we tend to the gross motor of kids it can help with their cognitive processing as well," said Lisa Vahey, acting principal, Namaste Charter School.

Namaste's children play in the park down the street from the school or in the school's parking lot.

After decades of no recess at Chicago Public Schools, many of the schools no longer have playgrounds or playground equipment.

Officials at Walsh Elementary School in the Pilsen community are not concerned. Principal Krish Mohip welcomes the arrival of recess, although the school already gives students some breaks during the day.

"Learning happens in and outside of the classroom and people need to understand that," said Mohip. "Recess is a great time for kids to learn. It's a great time for them to relax and just be kids."

"Recess is a very necessary part of the school day. It really helps give children a release and gets them more focused and back in the class ready to learn," said Colleen Harvey, Playworks Chicago.

The principals ABC7 interviewed stressed that recess is not just outdoors. It can be indoors as well. They say it's important to form partnerships outside of the school and reach out to others to help them provide, safe and constructive recess space for all students.

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