EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally published this article in September 2017 with intent to support the discussion of more recess time for students in Carmel, Indiana. Never did we think we’d find ourselves on the edge of a 2019-2020 school year with little to no movement between administrators and parents. According to local moms, “it was made clear in the January newsletter from the superintendent that there will be no change in the school day for 2019-2020 and no commitment yet as to whether there will be a decision to increase recess.” Nevermind the fact this issue was raised to the School Board during meetings more than six years ago and not vetted then. In fact all parents heard from administrators was that a 15-minute increase in recess time would equate a 30-minute increase to the entire school day {noodle on that for a moment}. So it goes to ask: What IS more important in Carmel? Academics or a child’s well-being? We’re still thinking it through. For now, we present the original piece from September 2017 with a few new calls to action at the bottom. Read on, reader:

Carmel Indiana recess - theCityMoms

Call it the great Carmel Indiana recess debate. Or call it the ‘who needs recess anyhow?’ debate.

After all: What comes to mind when you think back on elementary school? I used to scoff at my parents when they struggled to remember a teacher’s name. How could you ever forget such critical information? {Fast forward: Parents do, and I have.}

But I still have vivid memories from that time in my life, and almost all of them revolve around recess. The friendship bracelets. The playground politics. The joy of running across the field with the boundless energy of a seven-year-old.

Recess is where it all happens in grade school.

It’s where social bonds are formed and broken. Where athletic prowess or lack thereof is proven. It’s where imaginations are free to roam. And recess is typically the only unstructured part of the entire day for school-aged children.

When news broke that Carmel – an affluent and well-respected school district in suburban Indianapolis – only offers elementary students 15 minutes of daily recess, our CityMoms started talking.

Our private Facebook group had just buzzed about this article regarding the positive impact of four daily recess breaks for one Texan elementary school. 

It caused us to do an informal poll. The results: 28 CityMoms said they think kids need 30 minutes or more of recess a day. In contrast, only nine responded that they actually receive that much time. The majority of respondents said their kiddos currently receive only 15 to 30 minutes a day.

Then the Indianapolis Star published an article citing the district in question also has the shortest recess time of the four largest districts in Hamilton County.

Don’t believe that? Here’s a snapshot of the spreadsheet local parents compiled to better demonstrate how Carmel’s 15 minutes sits as the lone wolf in a sea of longer recess periods:

Carmel Indiana recess - theCityMoms

Our CityMoms chimed in:

  • “My children get 30 minute of recess, and I still don’t think it’s enough! Children are not wired to sit still like adults, and requiring them to do so for such long periods is a recipe for behavior issues.” – Sharece
  • “Kids aren’t supposed to sit still for long periods of time.” – Monica
  • “Kiddos NEED more recess…the vestibular and proprioceptive input they get during recess actually aids them in being able to complete mental tasks.”  – Rebekah {Note: Our mommas are smart cookies! Here’s the translation: Vestibular relates to balance and eye movement. Proprioceptive is sensory processing.}
  • “I’m from Finland where kids never sit in class from more than 45 minutes at a time… kids learn so much better when they get to reset their brain.” – Anna

Many members were already thinking outside the box however stating “recess” as we know it isn’t the only option for kids:

  • “In my son’s kindergarten class, they get “brain breaks” in addition to research where they get up and move around. While I support more recess time, I am also for integration of movement throughout the day.” – Morgan
  • “I’m not sure they really need more ‘recess’, as in playing outside with no instruction. That’s great too but I would rather see more more movement, more self-directed and creative-type play throughout the day.” – Amanda

The research on the topic seems to be overwhelmingly in support of more recess and/or physical activity. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics found that physical movement and socialization during unstructured time allow students to perform better academically.


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Public support has also been pretty one-sided.

For instance, a Facebook group called the Carmel Recess Initiative has launched with local parents and concerned citizens advocating for more recess and movement in the school day. In fact that spreadsheet above? It’s theirs. From 2016. And practically nothing has budged since.

So why does recess always seem to be on the chopping block? Perhaps it’s the pressure at an early age to be academically rigorous? Maybe it stems from a growing awareness of bullying and the potential for such behavior during unstructured time?

Carmel School District administrators recently noted they are listening to the community and have launched a committee of parents, staff and administrators to review elementary programming.

Is it enough? Worth the conversation? Our CityMoms certainly feel passionately about the issue, and it seems the greater Indianapolis community does too. But we respect that every family is different – so let us know your thoughts in the comments.

HOW YOU CAN GET MORE INVOLVED:

  • If you’re a Carmel School District parent looking for more support on this issue, we recommend joining the Carmel Recess Initiative FB group. It’s a great way to connect with like-minded parents and stay in tune with administrative conversations. 
  • The Carmel School District School Board is scheduled to meet Monday, March 25, 2019, and a group of parents intend to feature this issue. Join them at 7pm at the Educational Services Center. Address: 5201 East Main Street.
  • Put pen to paper. Send postcards or letters to Educational Services Center, attn: Superintendent Michael Beresford, 5201 E Main St Carmel, IN 46033.

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Megan Bohrer - theCityMoms

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a transplant to the Midwest, Megan Bohrer still got excited by the first snow flurries of the season. Although her husband’s job as a private school administrator brought them to the area, Megan recently moved ‘home’ to Atlanta. And damn, we miss her.

When she isn’t chasing after her three children or putting herself through nursing school, Megan enjoys drinking craft beer, photography, playing soccer, and fantasizing about all of the Pinterest projects she will one day complete.