LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — This is the time of year when people try to pressure lawmakers to vote for or against certain bills, but a few of the advocates are still in grade school.
Several elementary school students joined their parents in writing to state legislators in support of HB1409, a bill that mandates at least 40 minutes of recess in all public grade schools.
“I like recess a lot,” said 8-year-old Izzy Kopsky, “and then I like taking my German, which is my language class.”
“Recess,” agreed 9-year-old Tappan Michael, “and I really like the teachers at our school.”
Kopsky, who attends Gibbs Magnet Elementary School, and Michael, who goes to Baker Elementary School, both said they love recess but do not get enough of it.
“Every day, we get 15 minutes,” Michael explained, “and if we’re talking during after-lunch while we’re sitting down, they wait 'til we’re not talking. And some people don’t stop talking, so it minuses, like five to seven minutes of it.”
Kopsky said he and his classmates almost never have enough time to finish the games they start. “At least once every other month, or something,” he stated. “Not very often. And, most of the time, we pick, like, long games, so, and not short games. So, we never really get much time.”
They and others shared their concerns during a letter-writing session Wednesday evening, Feb. 20 at the Hillary Clinton Children’s Library. The event was hosted by Parents for Active Learning, a parent group that promotes the value of recess.
April Gentry-Sutterfield brought her children, who attend Forest Heights STEM Academy. She said she is concerned about the lack of recess during their day.
“I believe it’s 20 minutes,” she said, “and on rainy days, they get no recess; they’re inside watching a movie.”
Gentry-Sutterfield, who also teaches art at Forest Heights, said she sees the impact that plenty of playtime has on young students.
“I feel like children who don’t get their wiggles out during the day have a lot more trouble focusing on their schoolwork,” she said.
She also mentioned the health and social benefits recess gives to children.
“Psychologists have shown that unstructured play is really important for kids’ social and emotional growth,” she stated. “It’s important that kids have time to figure out how to work out problems on their own, amongst their peers.”
Kopsky said he enjoys getting to run outside, but knows he is missing something by having limited recess time.
“Well, I don’t have very much time, so I just feel kind of, like, cramped again,” he explained.
Kopsky said Wednesday was not the first time he has asked politicians to increase the amount of time dedicated to recess.
“Almost my whole class wrote, typed letters to legislators, too, and then we printed them, and I went up and gave them to legislators,” he said.
Michael chose not to address his letter to a Senator or Representative, but, “the governor, so he can read our notes and see that us kids want more recess. It’s not just the adults.”
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers), will get its first test in the House Education Committee Thursday morning, Feb. 21.