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Outdoor recess for BHMS upper elementary students

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June 8, 2010

Dane L. Peters
Head of School
Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

Sandy Gannon
Head of Elementary and Middle School
Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

Dear Dane and Sandy,

We are writing to you because we are concerned about the lack of outdoor recess for upper elementary students.

Children need to have opportunities to play outside. Studies show that outdoor exercise and play have positive effects on emotional, physical, and cognitive development. But that only proves to us what we already know: Children who work hard at school from nearly 8 in the morning to 4 or 5 in the evening need fresh air and time to play to keep them healthy, ready to learn, and stress free.

We know that the school administration is aware of this issue. Admirably, BHMS has tried to remedy for the lack of facilities that provide larger bodies room to exercise and move. Indoor recess in the gym; the terrace; and P.E., dance, squash, and yoga classes are all good things. However, none adequately replaces children’s need for outdoor recreation and play. Here’s why:

• Too many kids gravitate to the “chill zone.”  —The gymnasium doesn’t provide the same opportunities for physical activity and play as being outdoors. Too many children, 10 or more at a time - more than a quarter of the UE - end up studying, hanging out, or talking with friends in the “chill zone,” which in the gym’s lobby. Here, children engage in little if any physical activity. Many of these children play actively if given the opportunities to go the playground.

• The terrace isn’t for play—Although children use the terrace in warm-weather months, it’s a place for sedentary activities, such as studying or lounging. In addition, the terrace isn't used much for more than half of the school year. Naturally when the temperature is in the 40s or 50s, it’s too cold to read a book or chat outside, but it’s the perfect temperature for outdoor play.

• P.E., dance, and yoga are structured programs—During their day, children need unstructured time. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education has concluded that recess is vital opportunity for children’s unstructured playtime in which they “have choices, develop rules for play...and practice or use skills developed in physical education.”

• Trips to Van Voorhees playground are too few—UE makes occasional trips to Voorhees playground, a 10-minute walk from the school. Unfortunately, the trips depend upon too many contingencies. In practice, the UE classes visit the playground only about 15 - 20 times per year, about 10 percent of the 170 school days. In effect, outdoor recess is now a treat, rather than an integral part of the school’s program.

We appreciate that the administration is actively looking for solutions to this problem. We know that an administrator’s plate overflows with the concerns and needs of many constituencies. We understand that teachers’ time is limited.

But our kids need to get moving now. We need a short-term strategy while we wait for more permanent solutions. Many of the parents who are signing this letter are willing to donate time to research alternatives and to solve this problem with the school.

One of the BHMS’ great assets is its ability to come up with creative solutions. We believe it’s important to have an interim plan to put into effect when school starts again in September. We would like to help in any way that we can. With that in mind, we would like to schedule a meeting with you this month to determine how we might work together.

Thank you for your consideration.

The undersigned parents


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