Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recess Before Lunch? (Part 1)

Over the last five months, I've been spending one day a week during recess and lunch at Concord International Elementary in South Park. I may be a so-called adult, but that hasn't stopped me from joining in on games of basketball, tetherball, or four-square. It hasn't prevented me from twirling ropes for double Dutch or jumping ropes in games of snake and helicopter. I may be too tall for the monkey bars now, but if I wasn't I’d be swinging around like a monkey too. Interestingly enough, not much has changed on the playground since my days of being a recess goer. Maybe there are some new ‘special’ rules and songs, but a lot of the same games are still around.

Your typical playground still looks the same, but Concord International Elementary is shaking things up — in a good way. Last year staff voted to switch things around and in September, Concord entered into its trial Recess Before Lunch period that is still taking place. Staff will soon meet to determine whether or not to keep the schedule this way.

Recess Before Lunch (RBL) is a policy that reverses the longstanding tradition of eating lunch before heading out to recess. Just because we all grew up having recess after lunch, doesn't mean it’s necessarily better. (After all, I’m sure anyone reading this can think of at least one occasion where they felt sick from running too soon after eating.)

As this national phenomenon has begun to spread, more studies have shown that students return to class calmer and ready to learn, waste less food, visit the school nurse fewer times, and experience fewer discipline problems. The environment of the school cafeteria is more relaxed and students are better behaved. To learn more, check out what Montana schools and the Montana Team Nutrition Program has been up to or visit Peaceful Playgrounds.

Recess Before Lunch at Concord stemmed from the work of the Healthy Foods for South Park project, a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant-funded collaboration between Lettuce Link, the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS), Concord, and the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice. 

Through numerous school, PTA, and community meetings, including an event held by MOVE: Mapping our Voices for Equality, South Park community members and Concord parents, faculty, and staff committed themselves to keep working toward a healthier community and school. 

The resulting projects now include Solid Ground-sponsored nutrition education at Concord, a school-wide Healthy Celebrations policy, Recess Before Lunch, and organized recess activities that encourage physical activity (working with Treeswing to implement the Playworks Recess model).

This commitment hasn't been an easy process. Stay tuned to read about some of the unexpected challenges encountered in implementing Recess Before Lunch at Concord, and how the Concord community is addressing these barriers.

Read Part 2 of Mandy's reflections here.

~ Mandy, Apple Corps Member with Lettuce Link

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