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Does Your Kid's School Need a 'Recess Coach'?

The Short of It

Some schools are using "recess coaches" to help supervise and regulate play.

The Lowdown

Coaches from California-based nonprofit organization Playworks have been hired by the New York City Department of Education to perform tasks like monitoring tag and getting cliques to intermingle on the playground at five low-income area schools across the city. In addition, four other city schools will share a coach on a rotating basis.

Nationally, Playworks works with 900 schools, instituting several recess regulations to accomplish their goal of getting all kids to play together. Tactics include keeping kids involved when they are "out" in a game (or "unsuccessful" as Playworks prefers to call it) and insisting children use a gentle tickle on the shoulder, not an aggressive tap during tag.

The aim is to make sure kids are having fun, staying active, and prevent bullying. If you're being bullied, or excluded from a game, then recess certainly may not be fun—so that's a noble goal. And it's true we have a national childhood obesity crisis on our hands. But do New Yorkers need to spend $425,000 in taxes on recess coaches—as they reportedly have since 2011—to prevent these issues? And is it a good idea to turn recess into yet another adult-directed part of the day?

"Children need some sort of unorganized and unsupervised playtime, specifically because it stokes their imagination and allows them to create imaginary worlds," Erik P. Hoel, a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin, told the New York Post.

On the other hand, the coaches do more than just oversee recess; they train older kids for a "junior coach" program, hold parent-teacher sports nights, and help teach games to students in classrooms. And a dozen public schools are on a waiting list to get a recess coach.

The Upshot

Frankly, I like the idea of more supervision at recess, in addition to teachers, who can't possibly see everything that is going on with every kid out there. But I think recess should be a break from instructor-led learning in the classroom, and a time for kids to learn to play together, and work out conflicts, mostly on their own. Sometimes kids just need to be kids!

What is your take?

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