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Eye On Education: Recess Revolution

Author: Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – Beacon Hill lawmakers are considering a bill that would make 20 minutes of recess a day mandatory at all Massachusetts schools. But what if recess was a time period with a plan and a coach and not just a free for all?

The Frost School in Lawrence says they are part of a “recess revolution.” If play, as the saying goes, is the “work” of childhood, they take play seriously at the Frost School.

“On any given day that you come visit the Frost School at recess time, you’re gonna see kids leading games, participating in games and taking turns,” said teacher Lori Morris. “It’s so great to see.”

And not just free time outside. Principal Sarah McLaughlin’s forged a partnership with the Roxbury based non-profit “Playworks New England”.

“I realized we had this great playground and this great space and really wanted to bring some support to kids being out here so we started it about three years ago,” said McLaughlin.

Playworks coaches are at the school every day. They are trained to be a caring, consistent adult, organizing games or helping children resolve conflicts that might pop up during recess. And they train fourth graders to be junior coaches.

Principal McLaughlin says, “I think to build leadership in 10 year olds is a really powerful thing and they have the opportunity to lead their peers to be seen as role models and it’s transformed many of them.”

Playworks is involved in 75 schools in Massachusetts. Executive director Jon Gay believes for kids battling issues like the power of screens in their lives, childhood obesity and online bullying, the social-emotional lessons learned at recess are more crucial than ever.

“Let’s work with schools to make sure that kids are outside, running around, playing for at least 20 minutes a day and let’s make sure it’s safe and inclusive,” Gay said.

At least one experienced coach agrees.

“It’s important because you need your exercise, you need your health!” Coach Miguel says of recess.

To pay for the Playworks coaches and training, $30,000 comes from the school budget. Another $30,000 comes from corporations like Fidelity and New Balance that fund Playworks.

For more information go to playworks.org.

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