A whole lot of talk about PLAY, dont you think…

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” Anonymous

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
Plato (Greek philosopher)

“I believe that those boys who take part in rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play in school.”
Theodore Roosevelt (American president)

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” Joseph Chilton Pearce (author)

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” Leo Buscaglia (author, educator)

“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” Kay Redfield Jamison (professor of psychiatry)

“Play fosters belonging and encourages cooperation.” Stuart Brown, M.D. (Contemporary American psychiatrist)

“Play is training for the unexpected.” Marc Bekoff (Contemporary American biologist)

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” Plato (Greek philosopher)

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.” Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

“The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.” Carl Jung (Swiss psychoanalyst)

“It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.” Tina Bruce (Professor, London Metropolitan University)

“The very existence of youth is due in part to the necessity for play; the animal does not play because he is young, he has a period of youth because he must play.” Karl Groos (German evolutionary biologist)

“Play permits the child to resolve in symbolic form unsolved problems of the past and to cope directly or symbolically with present concerns. It is also his most significant tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks.” Bruno Bettelheim (child psychologist)

“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” D.W. Winnicott (British pediatrician)

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” O. Fred Donaldson (martial arts master)

“A child loves his play, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.” Benjamin Spock (pediatrician, author)

“It’s not so much what children learn through play, but what they won’t learn if we don’t give them the chance to play. Many functional skills like literacy and arithmetic can be learned either through play or through instruction – the issue is the amount of stress on the child. However, many coping skills like compassion, self-regulation, self-confidence, the habit of active engagement, and the motivation to learn and be literate cannot be instructed. They can only be learned through self-directed experience (i.e. play). ~ Susan J. Oliver (author, Playing for Keeps)

“The main characteristic of play – whether of child or adult – is not it content but its mode. Play is an approach to action, not a form of activity.” ~ Jerome Bruner (psychologist, professor)

“Play is not only our creative drive; it’s a fundamental mode of learning.” ~ David Elkind (psychologist, author)

“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.” ~ Jerome Singer (professor, Yale University)

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” Friedrich Froebel (founder of the concept of kindergarten)

“If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.” Jean Piaget (Swiss philosopher)

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” Abraham Maslow (psychologist)

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein (scientist)

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw (Playwright, 1856-1960)

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What – you want my kids to PLAY at school?

You want my kids to PLAY at school? Well, um yes we do! But school is for learning – yes that’s true but did you know kids actually learn better after a good dose of free play not to mention what they learn as a result of that free play? Well, our kids dont go to school to play, they need to focus on their academics – well yes and did you know kids focus better after periods of rest and free play. But um, you can do sports after school if you want your kids to play – true, but school RECESS serves a purpose that afterschool sports doesn’t and won’t meet, they are highly structured and dont offer a break from the rigors of academic and sedentary studies during the school day. The teachers and AP’s say that the kids start fighting if they have too much free time, they don’t want the office clogged with discipline problems. Well, first of all, if there is a discipline problem with some students that doesn’t make it right to punish ALL the students by taking away their valuable RECESS time, and more importantly, if these AP’s would look at this as the part of their job that it is, and actually help these children LEARN to get along, foster peer mediation, and conflict resolution that would go a long way in each of those children’s lives. We simply can’t deny children the opportunity to develop social skills becuase we dont want to DEAL with them. Well, um, my kids dont like RECESS, we dont care if they dont have it – children develop necessary social skills that will help him or her well past their adolescence? I just hear that the kids are bored at RECESS and dont really use that time to their advantage Well first, the way children use RECESS will look different to adults who use their breaks differently, but these are children in a child’s world, not children in an adult’s world. And, if these children were equipped with the right tools, such as balls for 4 suare, jump ropes, hula hoops, hopscotch and options to create and manage their own games of soccer or toss, it would give them more opportunity to navigate their social world and increase the much needed oxygen to their developing brains, help deter childhood obesity and give the kids all the means they need to rejuvenate their body and mind so they can be more successful in the classroom. I just dont see the point in fighting for RECESS, the principal and school district wont listen. When parents come together and stand in the gap for their children, they become a voice to be reckoned with. I just don’t have time to do anything about it, its not like it will matter if they had RECESS once they are grown anyway. Did you know, its through imaginative and creative play that MOST of the innovations of the last 50 years have been made? Well, I dont like that they took away RECESS, but sometimes we just need to ‘roll with the punches – you know not make waves’. So I guess the Colonists shouldn’t have fought for Independence, Martin Luther King Jr. shouldn’t have made waves, or Rosa Parks shouldn’t have gotten on that bus. There just isn’t enough time for RECESS at school, the kids have to pass those state standard tests. These kids are at school for 7 hours and educators and administrators have bought into the idea that MORE is BETTER and the MORE time spent on test prep the better, when in actuality, kids who are given adequate rest time and free creative play score better on those same standardized tests. But, those tests determine if my child will be successful, so I will do what the school says so they can grow up and be productive and successful.Well then, I guess Albert Einstein was an idiot.
At some point in this conversation I just had to laugh, throw my hands in the air and say what the heck are they putting in the water fountain. Oh, and just in case:
7 Reasons why kids need RECESS
The Importance of Recess
Why kids learn LESS when Schools get rid of RECESS
Why the undervalued
playtime may be America’s best investment for healthy kids and healthy schools

School Recess Improves Behavior
The Value of school Recess and Free PlayMovement to Restore Play
All Work and No Play
Crisis In Kindergarten
The case for Elementary school RECESS
Children suffer due to lack of PLAY
Creative Play makes for kids in control
Efforts to Restore Play Pick up Momentum
The State of Play
Recess makes for better students
Children and Nature
Kids successful in school may mean putting down the books and heading outdoors
6 ways to save RECESS
National Institute for Play
The Creativity Crisis
Want to get your kids into college – let them PLAY
Playing to Learn
Let Children Play
this list is just the tip of the iceburg…
RECESS is that important.. and we are talking about it.. standing up for it and demanding it!

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They are just children…

I want RECESS restored for the children in my kids school, I want a fair RECESS policy for all the children in our school district. I want children to be able to be children and that includes PLAY.

I have the privilege of spending time with an adorable 18 month old, and today as we played outside in the grass I watched her joy and saw her spirit delight in the surroundings she explored. There was no motive of our play time, I wanted to enjoy the nice weather and give her a chance to feel the grass, chase the birds and get some fresh air. The play was natural, I didnt tell her NOT to grab a pine cone, but once she discovered its prickly nature she carefully brought it to me mumbling ouch… it was a natural teachable moment. I didnt have to direct her attention to the falling leaves, she ran with joy to join them as they fell to the ground and laughed all the way down. I didnt have to tell her that the birds were making that music, she saw them and tried to imitate their melodies. I didnt have to tell her the mud was wet and gooey because as soon as her hands reached down for the cold moist mud, she hesitated and looked to see if it was ok, and when I didnt direct her, she reached in full fists and squished it between her fingers and giggled. I didnt have to tell her that the squirrel would bite or warn her to be fearful of him, because as she ran towards him he was fearful of her 18 month self gaining on him and he fled to the highest branch, and the conversation that ensued was hysterical. She moaned up the tree as if to invite him down to enjoy her mud pie, he ran higher and seemingly hissed our direction. She wasnt happy with that answer and squealed as loudly as she could and before we knew it he had jumped ship and was out of sight. I wonder in her minds eye, what did she think about that conversation. It didnt seem to bother her because she turned her attention on the balls left by my children and tried to kick a soccer ball, chasing it and falling over it as tried to pick it up. I was so filled with the sense of what was RIGHT at this moment. I was not directly teaching, I was not enforcing rules, I was not structuring her play, and she was engaged, delighted, curious, stimulated and happy.
Then later today, I watched my kindergartener at recess. The kids walked in straight lines hands behind their backs, with no talking to the playground, and no sooner than they were allowed, they scattered to an apparatus, waiting in line for a chance to slide, a few kids played chase, many kids just meandered here and there. I spotted my son, who was waiting for the swings, obviously frustrated with the wait, he went to the line by the slide, obviously frustrated by the wait, he joined in chase and I saw him finally smile for the first time on the playground today. He had no more gotten half way off the basketball court when the teachers called for the kids to come inside. I saw the frustration all over his face as he squatted to the submissive position that says the fun is over, time to go back to class.
Today, I was able to compare these two situations while waiting in carpool. Looking back at a sleeping toddler I smiled remembering her delight. Looking toward the school building I found tears in my eye as the comparison came flooding into my mind. My 5 year old wants nothing more than to be a child, to do the things of a child, to be about the business of a child -to PLAY, yet for 7 hours out of the 12 maybe 13 hours in his day, he is forced to conform to standards that strip him of his very nature and the essence of what makes him who he is. Yes, he should learn reading and writing, counting and shapes.. but he is 5, his kindergarten standards are high and after all we want him to be GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE. (yes you can detect the sense of sarcasm here). But he wants to explore his world, he needs to develop social skills, he needs to get fresh air and have a break from the structure of his day. Do I dare look at this sweet 18 month old and think ‘you need to be globally competitive’ NO! I look at her and I see her innocence, I see her delight and joy, I see her LIGHT in this world – the spark that is uniquely hers alone and in that moment I see it clearly, our focus in this day and age is so far away from what is natural and right for children.
Its all about US.. Parents want bragging rights about where their child attends college, or how successful their children have become. Some parents want to focus on the end result and dont count the cost in the lives of their children. Administrators and lawmakers deal with a bottom line, they deal with numbers, they do not know my childrens names. They balance budgets and propose tax hikes and make sure the state test scores draw more money to our district. The school administrators must conform to the standards set by professionals who dont walk the halls, who are out of touch with the frustrations of our children, who are dropping out at an alarming rate because the system is failing them. They cut RECESS and ART and MUSIC to make time for more test preparations to protect their bottom line and reputation. The teachers, the unsung heroes of our screwed up educational system, bless their hearts for enduring the ridicule and slandering done by dissatisfied parents because their child isnt performing or learning at the level pleasing to the parents. Or at times dealing with children who have given up on themself because there is no one at home supporting them and their educational efforts. Teachers subjected to the scrutiny of a system that base their productivity and/or success on a standardized test score and not on the influence or inspiration they fill the children’s minds and hearts with. Teachers deal with ridiculous mandates to have children SILENTLY READ instead of running around for a few more minutes to stimulate their minds and give them the freedom to be a child so they can return to the classroom to be a more focused and productive student.. Teachers, at some point in their life, were inspired to make a difference in a childs life, and they had no idea what had happened to the profession of teaching in our country. They teach to test, not because they want to but because they have to. They teach to the masses when each child learns differently, because they have to. They teach methods that are years beyond a childs developmental ability and expect them to excel, when they consistently fall short, because they have to. Teachers, my heart goes out to you and the arduous task you have laid out before you. You are graded based on your students test scores, your bonuses are based on these students test scores, your tenure is based on these students test scores… yet teachers all across our country want ONE thing – to inspire a child to LOVE to learn. Yet, their hands are tied… I know, mine were tied once too. Meeting IEP goals, making sure the TEKS were met and documented, changing the curriculum so my 18 students could PASS the test, I did that, too.
But, now I am a parent who faces a dilemma… How do I effect change in a system that doesnt see its faults? How do I help teachers who cant help themselves? How do I rattle a district to see that they are failing the children, when their test scores show differently and they wear that like badge of honor on their sleeve? It’s an increasingly impossible task, but I gaze at this 18 month old in the rearview mirror, I watch my 5 year old on the playground, I hear my 11 year old complain about not having a chance to discover all their is about the topics in school because they only teach what is needed for his state test…. I see and hear and in my heart I know… I cant sit back and say ‘well, its just the way it is’ I wont sit back silent while the system fails us all. Please remember as you read this, the face of your child, remember them at 18 months old, think of their delights and joys as they explored their world and surroundings, think about a preschooler who shouldnt be mandated to memorize- but who wants to chase butterflies and build with blocks, think about the active 5 year old who wants to learn by being creative and exploring the why’s and how to’s and the because of every new thing around them, think about the 10 year old who is inquisitive and wants to investigate every detail of something that draws his attention, think of the conversations with a 14 year old who struggles to find out who she is as she navigates social circles and begins discovering what compels her to learn, think about the 16 year old who sees the whole world as possibility and who just wants a chance to learn and discover for himself what his passion and purpose is in life.
Please remember as you spend time everyday with your children, that they are just that… they are just children, and that is reason enough for me.

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Recess @ Risk

It seems repetitive, but just incase you are new to the concerns in CyFair, I encourage you to read up on the posts that outline the issues concerning recess in CyFair ISD. And if you would like to encourage the conversation between the school board and the concerned parents of our district, please sign the petition.

Today, as I observed a 14 minute recess I couldn’t help but think how much more the children could benefit if this principal would just allow the children to play for the time alloted by our district. Then I grew frustrated by thinking that the district passes off this responsibility to principals and does so with such disregard for the benefit of a full and active recess for our children. At some point, it must be taken into consideration, that a shortened recess serves NO ONES needs other than the principal’s. I have not been able to justify, in my minds eye, the reason for shortened recess. Really, the district allows for 30 minutes – this includes going to and from the playground. But in the case like today, at minute 14 the kids froze when the whistle blew and ALL children were off the playground and back in the building within 3 minutes. Last year at our school, the children often stayed on the playground a full 25 minutes and our school regained its “Exemplary” ratings, so why shorten RECESS – and WHY SHORTEN ART/MUSIC and PE. (which causes the children to run laps each Tuesday instead of enjoying a FULL Art/Music class). What is this principal doing with these extra minutes? What is being gained? I can only speak for those parents and children I am in contact with and all dislike this change. The children complain more about school this year than in years past. Kids are under more scrutiny and demand than ever before, and the pressure is taking the FUN and enjoyment out of the learning process. I question, is this how we develop life long learners, is this how we motivate and ignite a passion in our children? I am quite certain it is not. So what do we as parents and concerned citizens do, we stand up, knock on the door of the administration and ask them to consider the long term effects of this trend. Childhood obesity is already epidemic, high school drop outs are at all time highs, ADD/ADHD has increased among children ages 5-9 at an alarming rate, and Vit. D deficiency and Nature Deficit Disorder gained national attention in the last year as children are noted as being INDOORS too much. It’s time to address this issue before we end up like Florida where the children have no recess at all, or like Atlanta where new schools are built without outdoor play facilities. Children play – its what they do, who the are and how the develop completely. Denying children the right to a full and fair recess denies them the social and developmental environments they need to grow into successful and balanced young adults with a desire to learn and contribute to society.
Just today, a link was shared with an excerpt from Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark, and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Here, he talks about the positive result exercise has on the growing and developing brain. I was first introduced to SPARK, by a school administrator, who advocated that I read it as a way to continue to promote and fight for more recess. That was promising, as it seems those in upper administration who turn an ear away from concerned parents may actually listen to those in a field of study that scientifically proves the benefit of MORE active time during a students day, and not LESS.
3 minute video here

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The Death of RECESS: Good Morning America Spot

Death of Recess
Good Morning America addresses the state of shrinking RECESS in America.

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Recess isnt what it use to be….

I wonder, what do you remember about your schools days when you were a child?
I remember RECESS, I remember teachers that challenged me, and the friends. I remember kickball, and spanish class, four square, and the spelling bee, I remember picture day, and jump rope. So many memories of our childhood can be found on the playgrounds in America, yet these are not the memories our children will recall. In CyFair, they are likely to remember the year their principal took away half of RECESS in favor of SILENT READING. They will remember running laps, instead of painting a picture and playing an instrument all in the name of meeting PE requirements that the school no longer meets because they took time away from music, art, and pe. Schools are simply not the same, and our children are the ones that pay the price for those who claim to know whats best, when in actuality they simply want better test scores.
I am all for academics but in the course of recent years many adults have lost sight of childhood in all its glory. So many things I hear are how we want our children to be competitive, to get into ‘that’ college, or to be the best in ‘this’ subject. Certainly we want our children to be successful to have things ‘better’ than we do, but at what price? The value of recess is being brought up all around the country, why….Play has a very important part of our children’s lives and we are so caught up some defining level of achievement that we have lost sight of what childhood is and how valuable this time is for our children.
I want my children to remember the games and choices they made on the playground. I want them to learn how to get along when someone pushes in front of them in line for the slide. I want them to navigate the social settings that they may be uncomfortable with at first, yet finding their life long friends without knowing it. I want them to explore nature and the wonders that are around them. I want my kids to get a break, a well deserved break from the stress that these four walls are bearing down on them.
Everywhere you go its about the TEST. Sitting in a school board meeting in the Fall I was shocked to hear the rhetoric that the focus was on students who “almost” passed the TEST last year. Repeated over and again, this group that was 3 or 4 questions away from passing, we will focus on those students. I want the education system to focus on all students. I want the focus to really be creating life long learners, and I can guarantee you are not going to do that by taking children off the playground and sticking their heads in a book (especially when they already have required reading time as part of their daily class schedule). You are not going to create life long learners by taking away the outlet that music and art offer to the children.
I really have tried to wrap my mind around the mindset that short or no RECESS is necessary, especially when MANY principals in our district still see the value of full RECESS and allow their students the benefit of FULL allocated time on the playground.
International Association for Play: A case for RECESS
National Assoc. of Health and Physical Education recommends ATLEAST 20 minutes of RECESS a day for elementary students, MANY CyFair schools dont even meet this recommendation.
Sign the petition and let CyFair know we are concerned about the issue of RECESS in our district.

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Standing up for our Children

What voice do our children have if we dont take a stand for them? None, and because we dont, they get sucked into the constant repetitious clamour of failing school system policies that have gone on for too long. I dont have any intention of battling our governmental policies that have become the downfall of a public school system, but I do intend to stand and fight for something that is essential to the overall wellbeing of our children.
It’s a pretty simple problem to understand…
In CyFair the district allows principals to dictate the time alloted for the children to benefit from RECESS.
The district policy shows it like this:
5.5 hours academic
1 hour lunch/recess
30 min. principals discretion

So why shortened RECESS??? That is the question, there are several schools in CyFair that have not only shortened RECESS but they have shortened LARGE GROUP (PE, Art, Music). In our case 5 minutes a day was taken away from these classes this year.
As a result these campuses no longer meet the Texas State Mandate that requires so many minutes for PE.. So, in addition to shortened large group, shortened Art and Music these students now must RUN LAPS during either Art, Music or Recess. And what are they doing with these extra minutes – more test prep I am sure. Cy Fair prides itself on the academic ranking of its schools, and we were pleased last year that our school received the Exemplary ranking, but at what price? Our kids were asked to perform, to study and to do well on “that” test, and they did just that, only to be rewarded by having RECESS and large group shortened. In a time where research continues to show the benefit of UNSTRUCTURED PLAY you would think schools would take notice. But instead they are focused on one goal – a ranking?… perhaps… But as a parent I am concerned about the overall well-being of my childs growth and development, academically, socially, environmentally and creatively. There are many things a child needs to learn that can not be taught in a class room or as a result of organized sports.
In addition are the facts that:
childhood obesity is an epidemic problem
ADD/ADHD Nature Deficit Disorder and Vit D deficiencies are more problematic that in any other generation
Social development and a connection with nature are at all time lows in a generation whose at home lives are consumed with video games and parents who dont feel safe in allowing their children to play outside in neighborhoods as compared with previous generations.
Saving Outdoor Play
Getting Kids in college may require more PLAY
Childhood Obesity linked to Vit D deficiency
One reason I hear over and again is that teacher and Asst. Principals feel that after 15 minutes the kids start to misbehave.

After observing RECESS at more than 30 schools in our district I can easily see why, our children arent engaged at RECESS, they do not have the tools and the teachers arent participating, they are either standing guard or socializing with other teachers. Where have the basketballs gone, the games of four square and hopscotch, or the songs being chanted by the kids playing jumprope?
We are told there arent enough balls and other items for Recess but when asked if they could be donated we were told, no.
So why is it that they punish ALL the students because a few get in trouble… those times are valuable teaching moments in these young childrens lives.
“Conflict resolution is solved on the playground, not in the classroom,” said Dr. Jane Ripperger-Suhler (asst an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and pediatrics at Texas A&M)
Can you imagine your child at home and NOT being allowed to play for more than 15 minutes in 7 hours. It’s absurd…Play is what children do, its how the grow and learn and find themselves and removing it from the school day – even in shortening it we are doing a great disservice to our children.
I cant sit by while this happens, its absurd… plain and simple.

There is an awful lot that our children learn that they will never be able to learn from a text book OR from organized sports… both have its place in creating a well balanced successful child, but removing (and shortening) RECESS will deny them the chance to learn some very important social skills, cooperative skills, self reliance, and greatly diminish their sense of community and nature.

And in case you havent seen this information, I found it quite informative:
In Asian schools students receive 10 minutes of breaks for every 40 minutes of academics.
In New Zealand schools students receive a 30 minutes morning break and have a full hour of lunch and recess but they can start recess as soon as they have finished their lunch.
Both countries have outscored American students time and again, so stating that we are trying to keep up with or score better academically than other nations, is by far the least reasonable rationale for shortening RECESS in our schools.
And in Texas, schools that are ranked highest in the state on average have 30 – 40 minutes of “ON PLAYGROUND” time.
Yes, the CyFair schools and district are ranked well in the State of Texas, but they are not ranked THE highest.
It’s time to take a stand for the benefit of all the students in CyFair. The only way to make change happen is the BE the change, have your voice heard.
CyFair District administration offices:
281-897-4030 Theresa Hull (Asst. Superintendent for Student Services)
281-517-6554 Donna Guthrie (Asst. Superintendent for Elementary Administration)
281-897-4015 Jan Jones (Elementary Health Services)
281-897-4077 Dr. Anthony (Superintendent)
Email the Board of Trustees:
Sign our Petition

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