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More recess possible for Washington County students

Officials say they want to explore ways to give children more time outdoors

Officials say they want to explore ways to give children more time outdoors

July 18, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Elementary schoolchildren could receive more time for recess when school begins in August.

Michael Markoe, assistant superintendent for elementary instruction for Washington County Public Schools, said Thursday that he told principals they have a bit of "leeway" this year. In the past, students have been restricted to only 30 minutes of recess per day.

During a public committee meeting Thursday, officials also said they want to explore additional ways to give children more time outdoors - either during recess or off-site activities at the Fairview Outdoor School and other locations.

Markoe said he would like to increase the number of children who visit the outdoor school. Right now Washington County children go there in the fifth grade, but he said he would love to see students go there several times, as early as third grade.

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"Financially, I don't think we could do it," he said.

Board member Bernadette M. Wagner suggested taking younger students to the outdoor school for the day, perhaps on a Saturday, and providing transportation. She suggested that the trips could be reserved for students with the "greatest needs."

"We're looking at how kids learn, but also balancing that with instructional time," Wagner said.

Markoe said that while outdoor activities are important, it also is important to "protect that classroom time."

"Our children are not exposed to extensive outdoor activities unless it's at Fairview (Outdoor School) ... unless it's tied to the curriculum," Markoe said.

On Thursday, officials offered some ideas for establishing more outdoor time for students.

"You can encourage teachers to do that ... use the outdoors for regular teaching lessons," board President Roxanne R. Ober said. "We should do that as much as possible."

Ober said that at Northern Middle School, students sometimes hold classes at the stream near the school, and at North Hagerstown High School, students have held literature classes on the grounds of the school.

Markoe said that parents of elementary schoolchildren often have questioned the amount of recess children receive - 30 minutes each day.

"We have given principals a little more flexibility this year where they can go beyond that 30 minutes," he said. "We also have to seize opportunities for kids to stretch their legs."

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