The Evolution of MHS Recess: an Exposée

11/2017

By Graham Janson

As you may have figured out already, Montpelier High School isn’t an ordinary American public high school. Part of what makes our school unique is that we have ten minutes of the school day, four days a week, devoted to recess every day. Having been in this school for four years, I have seen the evolution of recess for myself. When I was a freshman, during recess, the halls would be virtually empty, with everyone either in a classroom, in the library, or outside, with everyone enjoying one of the diverse recess activities offered by the school. Four years later, the glory days of MHS recess are well over. Not only has the activities list been cut, but so has the amount of time for recess. With the addition of Solon block, TA and recess are now five minutes shorter than they used to be. Now, during recess, the halls are crowded and cramped with clumps of students that stand idly by and talk in groups for all of recess. I often hear students complain that there’s nothing to do during recess, and as a result they end up walking aimlessly around the halls. So, what exactly is the problem with recess? Why has it devolved so much over the past four years?

 In the past, a whiteboard, containing all of the available activities for recess, was displayed in the main lobby (image courtesy Edutopia)

In the past, a whiteboard, containing all of the available activities for recess, was displayed in the main lobby (image courtesy Edutopia)

To further investigate the problem with recess, The Spectrum interviewed a teacher and two students: Julian Stoller, a sophomore, and a junior who wished to remain anonymous. Although each interviewee had different answers and different perspectives on recess, they all agreed on one thing: recess is beneficial, and it should be longer. When asked if MHS should continue to have recess at all, the teacher responded with, “Yes, I think we should continue to have recess because it seems like it is a bit too short. We might think about extending it for 5 minutes more, and I think a lot of students are tired after 3 blocks and need that break to re-energize.” The students had similar sympathies; both of them mentioned that they wanted more time during recess, and that the current amount of time during recess is not enough time to productively do an activity. The students also mentioned the lack of activities during recess. When asked how they found out about activities to do during recess, the junior responded with, “I think I heard over the announcements that there was ping-pong in the library, but they don’t do that any more.”

The interviewees also gave suggestions to improve recess, with almost all of them having to do with increasing the amount of time. When asked what could be done to make recess better, Stoller responded, “Maybe if on occasion, once a week maybe, there could be different activities offered during recess, like I remember they used to do ping-pong in the cafeteria last year.” The teacher had her own suggestion to improve recess, telling the Spectrum that a slightly longer school day would allow for appropriate time for TA and recess, and that perhaps the school week could be reduced to 4 days to compensate for the increased school day time.  

When asked if the problems with recess were due to the administration or student attitudes, Stoller replied, “I think it’s an administrative problem, because the addition of Solon Block has shifted around the schedule and made less time for recess, which is mainly responsible for the problem.” The other interviewees had similar sympathies: they all enjoyed recess and thought it was a good idea, but lamented the shortage of time allotted for it.

 MHS students Isaac Mears and Laura Cassetty play cribbage during recess in autumn 2014 (image courtesy Edutopia)

MHS students Isaac Mears and Laura Cassetty play cribbage during recess in autumn 2014 (image courtesy Edutopia)

To conclude, it seems that the major problems with recess is the decreased amount of time and the limited number of activities. 10 minutes isn’t enough time to relax from a stressful day of school or to fully invest in an activity; even the previous 15 minutes. It normally takes about 3-5 minutes for the activity to get started so everyone has time to arrive, and then of course there are only about 5 minutes left to actually participate in the activity, which is not nearly enough time to invest yourself in an activity. With the number of activities during recess now being at an all-time low, it’s no wonder that recess is less popular than ever, and the administration and faculty should increase the time and activities during recess to make this unique part of our day great again.