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Coming to a high school near you in Vermont: Recess

Susan Notes:

When Adam Bunting was appointed principal a year ago, he noted, "Montpelier is a special place where culture and community is valued." He was an administrator at the Vermont high school from which he graduated for 13 years, so he knows about community.

May this idea spread.

by Molly Walsh

The schedule at Montpelier High School will offer something new next year: Recess.
That's right, the small high school in Vermont’s capital city will give all 330 students a daily recess. The 15-minute play time will take place at 1:20 p.m. each day, after lunch service is over.

Students and faculty will be free to shoot hoops in the gym, scale the school climbing wall, cartwheel across the athletic fields or cat nap. The school has no swings or jungle gym to play on, but that could change.
"I'd love to get some," said Montpelier High School Principal Adam Bunting.

So what's up with giving guys who are shaving and girls who drive themselves to school recess? The movement to preserve and expand recess primarily targets elementary schools, with a moderate push at middle schools. Even the most ardent fans of recess tend to stop at the high school door.

Montpelier's willing to be different. The experiment with recess is intended to give teens and adults a short break to refresh their bodies and minds. True -- they don't look like first-graders and odds are they won't rush outside to play hopscotch. But bigger people need to reinvigorate just as little people do, the thinking goes.

"There’s so much research on the importance of activity and rest on the brain, on providing transitions between subjects and content that, you know, how can we ignore that," Bunting said. "And it's not just important for kids, it's important for adults. It's a human thing."

Timing is a factor here, as well. Montpelier is already one of the top performing high schools in the state but it wants to get better. Recess will debut as MHS shifts from a mix of 85- and 45-minute classes this year to all 85-minute classes next year, what’s known as a full block schedule. Recess is intended to offset the demands of longer academic periods.

There are still details to resolve. Faculty are invited to take recess, but they also need to be available to supervise student recess. Students will not be allowed off campus, but there might be an exception for seniors with off-campus privileges. It's important to straighten out the kinks, Bunting said.

"We've got to do it right from the outset, because if we develop some bad habits this thing could go down quite quickly."

One thing's certain: Recess is not supposed to be catch-up time for homework and grading papers. (emphasis added)

"It's going to be highly encouraged that this is a time to step away from that and be together as a community," Bunting said. "We don't get that enough.”"

— Molly Walsh
Burlington Free Press



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