Bill to Mandate Recess Picks Up Steam in Mass.

A Massachusetts representative has introduced a bill that would mandate a 20-minute recess for Massachusetts schools, but some schools are already ahead of the game.

Eliot Elementary in Boston’s North End implemented two 25-minute recesses for their students 11 years ago.

“Recess is important because it lets all the stuff out that you learned out of your brain, and then you can fit new things in your brain and think about it,” said 6-year-old Maya Castro.

Principal Traci Walker-Griffith started at Eliot 11 years ago. When she came to the school, there was no recess.

“Recess is one of the lost arts,” said Griffith.

Griffith said she’s seen excellent results. The kids go outside, rain or shine, and she said they love the unstructured play time.

“It’s also building relationships and building respect and responsibility, but having fun — the bottom line is having fun,” said Griffith.

The school teamed up with Playworks New England. They are currently helping 150 schools integrate play into their curriculum.

“It gives them a great opportunity to learn how to get along, learn how to problem solve, how to resolve their conflicts,” said Executive Director Jon Gay. “Learn how to cooperate, how to work together as a team. This is all social, emotional learning skills.”

Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge presented the bill in a hearing, and now they are waiting for a favorable recommendation so it can move through the process.

“Everyone agrees that children need unstructured playtime. The pushback is from districts or teachers that want the control, and they say, ‘we got this, we don’t need regulation,'” said Decker.

The Massachusetts Association of Superintendents said they don’t need a mandate, just flexibility to put unstructured time where they see fit and when.

Parents at Eliot said recess has been their saving grace.

“They would be bouncing off the walls when they get home at night,” said parent Nolan Previte. “Recess gets all their energy out. I wouldn’t want to deal with them at night with no recess.”

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