WICOMICO CO., Md. - Recess will be getting a shake-up in Wicomico County, with a new program being tested at two of its elementary schools.
The goal: add a little bit of structure to recess, with a program that hopes to get kids moving, learn about cooperation, and of course, blow off some steam.
They're the tell-tale signs of recess, but the hoop-and-holler coming from the gym at Westside Intermediate School wasn't coming from kids Monday morning, it was their teachers, learning a new approach to the mid-day break.
The PlayWorks program teaches educators how to incorporate organized games like Four Square and Switch into the students' free-play time.
On a break from running a lap around the gym, Paige Baker, a fourth grade teacher at East Salisbury said "it gives the students an option of something to do at recess, but they also have the option to do free play as well."
The pilot program will start at East Salisbury and West Side Intermediate in the coming weeks.
"Our goal really is looking at establishing a 60 minutes per day goal of physical activity, and this would go a long way to achieving that," says Michael Charlton, Heath & Phys Ed Supervisor Wicomico County Public Schools.
Charlton says an increased focus on physical activity is crucial in Wicomico County, where the latest data shows 26.5 percent of school aged children are considered obese, compared to the state average of 22.3 percent.
"We have a sedentary lifestyle our students are definitely more...I would say less physically active than they used to be," says Charlton
According to Sean Keelan, a national trainer for PlayWorks, the program promotes more than physical development during recess, saying "that's the place where a lot of students develop their cognitive skills, their physical skills, social skills there, and it supports them emotionally as well."
Westside Intermediate and East Salisbury are expected to begin implementing the structured recess games and activities in the coming weeks. Free play will still be an option for students, the PlayWorks activities would just be another option during the recess period.
The pilot for the first two schools is free. If this year goes well, the program will be opened up to all of the Kindergarten through 5th grade schools in the county next year. That would cost between $500 and $1,000 per school in instruction costs, minimal equipment, and follow-up visits. Some schools in the county only have a 15 minute recess, which officials are looking to extend to 30 minutes next year.
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