As beneficial as playtime is for our children, unfortunately, it has been scaled back or eliminated altogether in schools across the country. The average third-grader receives only 1.7 hours of outdoor play per week according to a National Center for Education Statistics study, and 8 percent don’t get recess at all. In sixth grade, 13 percent of children have no scheduled recess!
In the classroom, children are told to sit still and be quiet. Everyone knows playtime gives them the chance to burn off some energy and get exercise. Everyone knows children love recess because it gives them free time to relax, play, and simply be kids.
However, what many people don’t know is that there are proven links between physical activity and learning. That is why parents and educators should take steps to ensure recess becomes standard in their schools.
Let’s take a closer look…
Why Recess is Disappearing
There are many reasons recess is becoming a thing of the past, including:
- Lack of space or facilities
- Inadequate adult supervision
- Concerns about safety
- Subpar playground equipment
The biggest reason comes from academic standards. In 2002, No Child Left Behind pressured school districts to cram as much teaching into the day as possible. Because of their short instructional day, only 11 percent of states now require elementary schools to provide regular recess (according to the Centers for Disease Control).
Urban and low-income areas are the most affected. Thirty-nine percent of African-American children don’t have recess, compared to 15 percent of Caucasians. Forty-four percent of low-income children don’t have recess versus 17 percent of others. Twenty-five percent of children who struggle academically don’t have recess versus 15 percent of those who perform well (source: Teachers College Record).
One reason so many schools have been willing to eliminate recess is because they figure after-school sports should be enough, but that is not the case. Recess differs from PE or organized sports because it gives children unstructured, free play. With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games free from adult parameters, which lets them develop their imagination and critical thinking skills.
How Longer Recess Helps Grades
Many health and education experts argue that recess is a necessary activity for child development. Playtime also helps with things that don’t get taught inside a classroom. Research shows that children who get regular recess:
- Are less fidgety
- Focus more
- Develop more brain connections
- Are more physically active before and after school
They also get the opportunity to develop social skills like leadership, negotiation, turn-taking, and conflict resolution. Recess can help students retain more of what they learn, because it helps with memory and can “reset” their brains for the remainder of the day.
What does the research show? Recess “represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP cautions against decreased time for recess because children need “a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize”.
“After recess for children, or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively”, the AAP said in their statement.
Here are some other facts to consider:
- Three out of four parents say recess should be mandatory (according to a survey by the National Parent Teacher Association).
- Eight of ten principals say recess has a positive impact on academic learning (according to a 2009 poll).
- The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends elementary school children have at least 20 minutes of recess daily.
The push for academic standards has left little room for outdoor play, but the irony is this: recess is actually shown to help children in the classroom.
Parents and Teachers Push Back
Parents and teachers are fighting the trend, calling on schools to bring playtime back. Laws requiring minimum recess amounts are being proposed—and passed—all over the country. Of course, there are financial considerations, and districts must make sure they have the employees needed to supervise children and money for safe playground equipment.
Is recess threatened in your school? Find out if there is a policy in place; if there isn’t, push for one! Tie your argument to increased performance in academics. Where recess is eliminated, teachers can get creative by taking children on a long walk back from lunch or having them do jumping jacks between lessons.
Remember: Recess should not be withheld for academic reasons or for “punishment.” Indeed, it’s the children who have trouble concentrating and behaving that need recess more than anybody else! Exercise and fresh air can help make students more productive and boost performance in math, science, and reading. When schools cut recess time or eliminate it entirely, they could be hurting academic performance as well.
Need help in designing and planning for your new playground area, or need to refurbish an existing playground? No Fault can assist! Give us a call at 1-888-NFSPORT, or contact one of our sales associates in your part of the country. No Fault has been providing playground safety surfacing all throughout the nation for the past 45 years. We are always available and eager to help.
Is your school, church, or other community organization looking for ways to fund a new playground, splash pad, or play area? In a previous article, “Writing a Winning Grant Proposal”, we discussed the components of a playground grant application and offered a few pointers on how to make your proposal stand.
Today, we will look at some specific resources to help you find funding for your project. We will also explain why funding agencies want to see that safety and value are built into your proposal. Showing you have a long-term plan to pay for the maintenance of your playground and to protect children from the risk of falls and other injuries increases the likelihood of you receiving money from funding groups.
Whether you are building a new play area or seeking funding to renovate an old one, we hope these tips are helpful. You can also check out our article about renovating playgrounds on a tight budget.
Every year, churches, schools, and other youth activity organizations get billions in funding for community play and recreation projects. At your local library and online, you will find hundreds of local, regional, national, and international funding sources that underwrite the costs to build and maintain playgrounds, fitness parks, and other recreation initiatives. Some of these grants are not advertised, so you may need to find a company or a group whose values and goals align with yours and ask them directly. Get ready to use the phone and knock on some doors!
Local Grant Opportunities
Big corporations like the NFL, CVS, and General Mills all have grant opportunities that are worth researching. But the drawback with these high-profile companies is that you will to be one of dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants. For this reason, you should also look for fundraising opportunities a little closer to home.
For example, small businesses in your community and regional industries often have philanthropic and community development programs for children. Your county, municipality, or state government may also have programs and grants. In some cases, this funding can be used for playgrounds. Again, you may have to get on the phone and do some digging; while these agencies probably have a website, they do not always make it clear if funding is available.
Do not forget civic and service clubs like Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the Junior League, and the Rotary Club. Many of these local groups also have national foundations that may have funding available for large-scale, community projects. These service organizations include many community leaders in business, education, and government; engaging with their members can give you valuable networking opportunities when seeking fundraising support.
National Grant Opportunities
Here are a few 2018 grant opportunities that may match your needs. Click through the links below to read the requirements.
- The Afterschool Alliance is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of afterschool programs. Their website has a funding section that includes updates on available grants, as well as tips on seeking funding for afterschool programs, guides on how to build sustainability, a database on funding sources, and information on the most common sources for finding funding to support programs.
- The Tony Hawk Foundation is accepting applications to build public skate parks in low-income areas. Grants from $1,000 to $25,000 are available. Application deadline is June 11.
- The 2018 Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program is offering grants to help create and improve state and locally-owned park and outdoor recreation areas. Applications can be submitted through September 14.
- The Target youth soccer grants program provides support for schools, government agencies and nonprofits. Money can be used to cover player registration fees, equipment, and training for volunteer coaches. Application deadline is June 30.
- Grants4Teachers has a free grant database where you can search for current available grants for your school or organization. The database is updated continuously, so be sure to check back often for new opportunities.
- The Grants.gov website provides a common website for federal agencies to post discretionary funding opportunities and for grantees to find and apply for them. There you will find information on over 1,000 grant programs, along with lots of helpful information about creating a successful application.
Show Them Safety Matters to You
Granting agencies want to see that you put thought and effort into planning your play area. This includes a plan for long-term safety and cost-effective surfacing options that require less maintenance and decrease the risk of injury from falls for years to come.
Remember: If an organization is going to help you pay for your project, they will want to make sure it is a well-planned undertaking with a long-term plan to keep kids safe. When you are putting together your grant application, make sure you emphasize how you will minimize the risk of injury from falls. Safety surfacing is a piece of the project that is often overlooked.
Poured-in-place safety surfaces from No Fault offer impact attenuation from falls. In plain English, they offer cushioning when a child falls down decreasing the risk of injury. You may be tempted to use gravel or wood chips in your play area to keep the up-front costs low, but there are long-term costs associated with maintenance and replacement of wood chips and pea gravel to consider. Additionally, these materials cannot match the safety features of recycled rubber surfacing, and they are not engineered to work with all the play equipment commonly found in modern play areas.
Got Questions? Call No Fault!
We hope our series of articles on playground funding has given you some ideas. It is not an easy process, but if you are organized, diligent, and persistent, you can find the appropriate funding for your project and experience the satisfaction of making your plan a reality. Make a pot of coffee; get ready to make lots of phone calls; and read the “fine print” on a lot of funder websites. Rest assured–when you see the kids enjoying the playground of their dreams, you will know that all your research and hard work paid off!
Finally, if you need assistance selecting the right playground safety surfacing for your play space, No Fault representatives can help! No Fault provides playground surfacing nationwide, including poured-in place rubber surfacing, bonded and loose-fill rubber mulch, rubber tiles, and synthetic turf. Wherever your group is in the planning process, you can reach out to No Fault today for help!