Among the various topics they addressed as they moved through their agenda were two that particularly attracted a closer examination - recess and the fine arts. The absence of a playground, together with an apparent misunderstanding of the parameters of recess, has left the children without regular opportunities to enjoy recess. The only available area adjacent to the school is a fenced in vacant field that is used for athletic practices. Placing any playground equipment in it deprives sports teams of using the field and would prevent us from offering options for our athletic teams.
Also, there has been a mistaken impression among the elementary teachers here that recess can only be offered if a certified physical education teacher supervises the activity. Actually, whomever explained this, or however the explanation might have been misinterpreted, left the elementary teachers with a misguided belief. The only reason that the intervention of a physical education teacher would be required for recess is if the school wanted to use recess as a means of supplementing any shortcomings involved with meeting the state education department guidelines mandating 120 minutes per week of physical education. In that case, elementary teachers could follow lesson plans approved by the physical education teacher to implement activities designed to fulfill the time requirements. However, Green Island already meets that requirement through regularly scheduled physical education classes. Therefore, teachers can take children outdoors for recess an its many forms. Recess often produces activities that promote caring and sharing, fair play and sportsmanship, cooperation and competition, and many other skills or experiences that promote life-long benefits.
Interestingly physical education and the fine arts are too often victimized by school budget cuts precipitated by difficult economic constraints. In large part, the driving factors in determining the values of subjects when money is insufficient to sustain all programs are related to the absence of standardized tests in physical education and the fine arts that are commonly used to measure learner achievement. That very fact implies varying degrees of worth among disciplines with regard to associated assessment instruments.
I would argue that physical education (particularly at a time our society is grappling with an increase of children experiencing rather significant weight problems) and the fine arts (an arena fertile with opportunities to exercise problem solving and other higher order thinking skills) are extremely valuable in encouraging expanded learning opportunities for children.
I'm pleased to say that our discussion at the meeting reaffirmed the value of recess and the fine arts. We explored options that resulted in a desire to fund the purchase of many different items for use during recess - hoola hoops, frisbees, kickballs, bocce, nerf balls, rubber horseshoes, and many more games and playthings. These items can be distributed and then collected so children can enjoy recess without permanent playground equipment and return to class, leaving the field available for after school athletic practices. Also, the PTO is actively supporting the school's effort to promote and expand the fledgling elementary chorus that last year secured a bronze rating in regional music competition in their first year of competition.
This line of thinking has caused me to resurrect an essay I wrote that was published several years ago by the Capital Area School Development Association. Here it is: