Recess at Swallowtail
As the Swallowtail faculty delighted in the large playground at our new Cornelius site, we also realized that it was the time to reconsider recess activities for the different grades with our choices being expanded by the new climbing structures, large playing field, and growing student body. A faculty committee volunteered to research developmentally appropriate recess games and standards set by other Waldorf schools, and presented their ideas on Recess Guidelines at the August faculty In-Service. The guidelines proposed limited sports activities with prescribed rules for the younger students, with these introduced grade by grade as children mature. These recommendations were adopted, with the faculty’s stated intention to observe recess behavior for the first month of the school year and see if activities needed to be adjusted. We found that within a month students were playing happily at recess and not much adult peacemaking was called for. At that time the Grades faculty confirmed the recess guidelines.
Waldorf teachers want their children’s recess play to involve a minimum level of adult direction. We take our recess duty times seriously, but it is our hope that we are there as helpers to settle minor misunderstandings, sooth hurt feelings and provide an occasional band-aid or ice pack for a bump. Recess is the time for children to learn to handle their own social dilemmas that result from vigorous and creative play, not a time for teachers to act as referees or rule-makers. The students learn much when they are performing these human social interactions with minimal adult interference.
Waldorf Movement philosophy believes that playing a competitive or formally organizedsport for children under age 10 takes away from a level of free-play and movement that we, at a Waldorf school, want to encourage in our students. Also, engaging in a “fixed” sport that has set rules takes away from other creative, free-play, or socially connecting activities that otherwise occur during recess. Children are always making up rules for the games they play, and changing those rules, and talking about those rules, and hopefully coming to a social agreement about what rules they are going to abide by at that time; in doing so they learn the art of listening, negotiation, and compromise.
We recognize there is always a difference between what children do with their families, on a beach day with siblings, or on an after-school sport team, and what we, as the school, deem as appropriate for the whole of each age group of students on our school playground during recess. There is a difference between recess time and teacher-led movement classes and games, and between recess and Extended Care play time. The Swallowtail Grades faculty is happy with our present recess guidelines based on their observations of individual and group student behavior and conversations.