Recess and Physical Education: The natural language of children is motion

The natural language of children is motion. This is truest of the very young but remains relevant through the middle school years (and should remain true throughout life if we are to stay healthy). Increasing numbers of schools demand that children remain physically inactive for long periods of time during the day. This goes against the grain for most children and makes school seem like a prison to many of them.

Since the advent of No Child Left Behind class time has increased greatly for two subjects – math and English – and diminished for most others. This includes the arts, social studies, languages, and physical education. We have seen a push toward reducing or eliminating recess in many schools and now an effort is underway to transform gym class from its pure focus on physical activity.

Children work better at school when their bodies are exercised. Even the least physical children like to jump rope, swing, or play four square. We have all heard the reports that sitting in a chair all day contributes to many ills: obesity, passivity, disease. We should not contribute to the nation’s sedentary inclination by asking our children to stifle their natural urge to move. We should celebrate that urge and give it lots of room for expression. This will not compromise learning. What compromises learning is asking children to be other than who they naturally are.

Let your local school board know what you think on this and all other issues related to education. Silence from the public is assumed to be affirmation of the status quo.

What do you think about the reduction and/or elimination of recess and gym time in schools? Leave your comments here. Thank you!
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Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.