Structured recess in NYC schools

Recess is not just about free time at P.S. 38 Roberto Clemente in East Harlem.

Several days a week, so-called play coaches lead structured games during recess period to keep children moving and engaged. It's called the Recess Enhancement Program, or REP, run by Manhattan-based nonprofit Asphalt Green.

"We're here to make recess an active, safe, and fun time for the kids," said Ben Gologor, who manages the recess programs at Asphalt Green.

REP currently serves more than 28,000 New York City public school students at 60 different schools. More schools are on a waiting list to get the program.

The program boasts of increasing kids' physical activity, but also claims to cut down on playground conflicts and bullying, teaching lessons that also apply inside the classroom.

"Our data shows that when schools have our program, verbal and physical incidents go down," Gologor said.

P.S. 38 Principal Calina Santos-Barton said the program has proved beneficial.

"What we noticed was some of our scholars had a hard time playing with each other they would quickly get into fights or arguments, so we wanted to create a structure where they learned about different games they could play that were safe," Santos-Barton said. "It's definitely minimized the number of incidents that occur during recess."

Though multiple recess games are always available through REP, they're not mandatory, and free play is always welcome.

"We get that there's a lot of mandatory things during the school day, they're shuffled from this period to that period, so we like to give the kids options," Gologor said. "Sometimes kids want to sit on the sides for a minute, and that's totally fine." 

Most kids do end up participating, and that's another benefit of the program say participants, no one gets left out.