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District's Efforts to Promote 'Touch-Free' Recess Raises the Question of What the Right Kind of Play Is

District's Efforts to Promote 'Touch-Free' Recess Games Raises the Question of What the Right Kind of Play Is

As standardized test scores continue to be a major indicator of student, teacher and school success, playtime continues to fall to the wayside as educators focus more and more on results. But play is now in the middle of a resurgence as many try to find ways to bring back structured play and recess activities for all.

One district's efforts to dictate what kind of play is appropriate- by implicitly banning touch-games like "tag-" has educators sounding off on what should and should not be considered appropriate play.

The Mercer Island School District is drawing attention back to the meaningful play debate by instituting a new "hands off" policy that implicitly bans popular recess games such as "tag."

"'While at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students,' Mary Grady of the Mercer Island School District told Q13 Fox News," according to The Christian Science Monitor.

While "tag" was not outwardly banned, the district offered "touch-free" alternatives to minimize issues the district's administration feel stem from similar games where touching is involved.

"'We want to initiate a new form of tag-like running games to minimize the issues of ‘you were tagged/no I wasn’t’ or ‘the tag was too hard and felt more like a hit,’ ' wrote Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano in a statement Thursday," the article said.

The move sparked outrage from the district's parents and soon became national news, making its way to The Washington Post and several other national news outlets as parents all over sympathized for children who were being denied outlets of play.

As a result, the district declared it would not be banning tag and will be contacting parents in the district to clarify what its recess rules going forward will be.

In order to prevent fighting and disruption without banning types of plan, the non-profit Playworks suggests using the game for conflict resolution as opposed to banning it all together.

"Rather than forbid certain games, the group places coaches in schools during recess to suggest new ones. The idea was to both free teachers and administrators from breaking up fights and help children return to class rejuvenated and with a few life skills," the article said.

Read more here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

09/28/2015

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