Recess gets a revamp in SLP Schools

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

After a successful pilot at Westwood Intermediate School this past school year, all Spring Lake Park Schools primary students will see changes to recess.

Spring Lake Park elementary school students will have more time for free play with increased recess time during the 2017-2018 school year. Photo submitted
Spring Lake Park elementary school students will have more time for free play with increased recess time during the 2017-2018 school year. Photo submitted

Previously, students went outside for recess for one long block of time following the lunch hour, but research out of the University of Minnesota shows that kids don’t necessarily need a break after lunch; they need more time for movement throughout the day to refocus, Park Terrace Elementary School Principal Kim Fehringer shared with the School Board June 13.

During the 2017-2018 school year, students will have a full 30-minute lunch period and two opportunities for movement at recess instead of one 15- to 25-minute block of time after lunch.

“Embedding the recess breaks throughout the day … leads to a lot of positive results,” Fehringer said.

Students are more attentive, efficient and productive, so cognition and learning is improved, she said.

Instead of having paraprofessionals supervise recess, as they have in recent years, teachers will remain with their students outside.

Teachers can decide when their kids need a break for free play or organized collaborative play.

With the exception of two Westwood Intermediate teachers, all others found heading out with their classes to be advantageous to classroom learning, Westwood Associate Principal Tyler Nelson reported.

Instructional time is actually saved because previously, when teachers weren’t outside and there was an incident, time was wasted when paraprofessionals had to explain what happened before teachers could engage in conflict management with students.

Now teachers can address issues outside when they arise, and they can model empathy, problem-solving and other skills for their students.

“Recess is the perfect opportunity … to coach and to model and to provide feedback,” Fehringer said.

Redesigning recess comes at no cost to the district, according to Nelson.

Any reduced need for paraprofessionals will be reallocated to improve programming, he said.

“It seems to me that this is a step in the right direction,” School Board Member Marilynn Forsberg said. “Kids will say school is fun.”

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