Parenting

Parenting: Sometimes change can be good

Friday, September 16, 2011

When I was in elementary school, we had classes in the morning, then lunch, then recess and then more classes. Last year, my son Micah's elementary school implemented a "recess before lunch" schedule. Micah, who was in fourth grade at the time, and was used to the "lunch-then-recess" model, thought it was weird. At the time, so did I.

At Open House night last year, many of the parents asked about why this schedule change had been made. The teacher explained that studies had shown that "recess-then-lunch" led to kids eating better lunches and fewer playground disputes spilling over into afternoon classes.

Last night was Open House night for this year. We parents learned that the school is once again following the "recess-then-lunch" schedule. Micah's fifth-grade teacher could barely restrain his enthusiasm for this plan. He said that under the old model, he would have to spend 10-20 minutes each afternoon settling some dispute among students that had arisen on the playground. Last year, under the new schedule, he said he only had two days the whole year when playground issues spilled over into class time. Apparently having lunch after recess provides a cooling-down period when the disputes are put into perspective, worked out, or forgotten. The end result: more time for learning in the afternoon.

And Micah's teacher said the faculty and staff saw other benefits as well, benefits that are borne out by studies at different schools nationwide. Retired principal Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer writes about some of them in this blog for Peaceful Playgrounds.com. (http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/recess-before-lunch.htm). She says the proven benefits include:

  • Improved cafeteria behavior.
  • Calmer more relax students in the cafeteria.
  • Students retuning to classroom calmer and ready to learn.
  • Drink more milk.
  • Students throw away less food.
  • Students eat more.
  • Fewer discipline problems.
  • Fewer visits to the school nurse.
  • The New York Times has even reported on the benefits schools have seen with making this schedule switch. Even the numbers of hats and mittens in Lost-and-Found has gone down.

    Clearly, each school's administration is going to make its own decisions regarding schedules, but for parents who are involved in the Home and School Association or PTA, you might want to discuss making this switch in your children's school, if it' not already being done. Unlike other school improvements, in these budget-stressed times, it doesn't cost anything and does seem to pay benefits.

    Even Micah and his classmates don't think it's "weird" anymore.

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    amy buckman parenting reports, parenting, amy buckman
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