Monroe Country Day School’s philosophy promotes students shedding their indoor lifestyles and giving them, as a part of every day, plenty of exposure to fresh air, pure sunlight, and unstructured play. With Monroe’s growth over the last 90 years, our historic school building is now located in town rather than in the country yet the school still has wooded areas to the north, a garden to the south and room for running and playing.
A recent article in The Washington Post stated on average, American elementary school kids get 27 minutes a day of recess. Their Finnish peers get an average of 75 minutes. In Japan, children get 10- to 15 minute breaks each hour in addition to a longer recess period. As elementary schools come under greater and greater pressure to have their students score well on standardized tests, recess time has been increasingly cut. In 1989, 96 percent of American elementary schools had at least one recess period. A more recent study found that number had reduced to 70 percent of even kindergarten classrooms having any recess.
Country Day believes outside time is vital for child development. Therefore, we schedule 60 minutes of outside time daily. Playtime exercises children’s minds and their creativity. More than anything, play teaches children how to work together to share, negotiate and resolve conflict. Oddly enough, it also teaches children how to be alone and entertain themselves. Watch a child alone outside. Within a few minutes, they will pick up a stick or rock and use it to dig in the dirt, build something, or use it in ways that are even more imaginative.
It’s springtime and soon to be summertime, and the historical view of American society says kids should be playing outside. The reality, however, tends to be a little different. Life has become an indoor kind of world and it’s no wonder with the horrors that inundate the news. Make plans beyond weeklong structured camps (which are wonderful summer activities) to ensure your child has time to explore, be creative, make decisions, problem solve and be resilient to change. There are many types of learning experiences and some of the least formal have the greatest value later in life.
Monroe Country Day School invites community members and interested families to come tour our school on any Thursday. Call our Admissions Director, Kristie Slaughter McDevitt at 770-267-8955 to arrange a tour. We hope you will stay and join us for some unstructured play at recess!
Rita Dickinson is the founder and director of the Monroe Country Day School.