Every day, all Tilden students have at least 45 minutes of free-play recess after lunch, supervised by the principal and three or four more teachers and aids. First grade and Kindergarten students also have a morning recess. We use three playground areas:
- As soon as parents leave the drop-off parking lot, we close the gates to make a huge, safe, fenced playground. During recess, students use the wide variety of play equipment stored in the shed.
- During lunch recess, students may choose to join a group of fewer than 30 students, supervised by a teacher and another staff member, to play on the grass at Dakota Place Park across the street to the north.
- The students employ a variety of equipment, from balls, to hula hoops, to jump ropes, in a myriad of ways to enhance their free play time.
The shed on the property holds all sorts of balls, ropes, rockers, hula hoops, tether balls, skippies, etc. The parking stalls work effectively as boundaries for 4-Square competitions, monkey-in-the-middle, and other games. The other playground areas are used cooperatively. There is a large area for the usual running and imaginative play, many days including a colony of penguins, or herds of horses, or puppies and kitties to play with or “be”. There is also a humble fairy tree with fairies who need food or homes, readily provided by their enthusiastic friends. This includes found leaves and moss, gently hung back on the old lilac tree. The fairies are protected from marauders, too! Did I mention the “food stand” that never closes, offering moss and leaf tacos, and imaginary coffee, too?
The principal and 3 or 4 other teachers and aids are out with the children for lunch recess every day. This consistency helps keep rules and expectations the same from day to day. Recess begins with a short, whole-group discussion focused on playground behavior. Students are taught:
- to include everyone in their games
- that being honest about being “out”, and playing by the rules, makes games much more fun
- that name-calling and bullying are not allowed
- what to do if something happens to you that you don’t like
- to tell someone directly if their behavior toward you is a problem, and immediately get adult help if the behavior doesn’t change—don’t wait and just hope things will get better
The pre-recess discussion sometimes addresses other specific situations of concern.
The children play across grades, so recess time is like multi-aged neighborhood play. Fifth-grade buddies help the Kindergarteners join in the playground offerings, and then the 5s choose their own activity—often a very engaged game of 4-square, of which they never seem to tire.
On rainy days, of which we have only 8-14 per year, the kids LOVE indoor recess. They spread throughout the school, choosing quiet rooms, active rooms, Legos, drawing, “product” creation (such as pillows, lovingly filled with scrap paper and stapled shut), working on pictures for their art history books, etc. It is endless fun for the students. (The teachers are glad if the next day is not rainy….)
Recess at Tilden is wonderfully active. Kids organize structured games, conceive imaginative play, invent new games, or practice and then perform music and/or dance numbers for the supervising teachers or for groups of friends (getting ready for their Broadway openings that are sure to follow!)