Richard Louv; children; kids; recess; recreation; outdoors

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This one-minute video (link below) highlights the differences in how European and American schools think when it comes to structuring a child’s school day.

It made me angry and broke my heart. Let me explain.

It opens with a small boy with a big knife whittling a stick into exactly the kind of sharp and menacing point that boys prefer. “In Europe,” reads the accompanying text, “having children experience the outdoors is a big priority.” Cut to a scene of a school outing in which a kid falls squarely on his or her butt on an icy road but gets up. “Even if it’s freezing outside.”

“Meanwhile in America,” we’re told, “children spend just about 7 minutes a day on outdoor activities.” According to a 2014 CDC report, Bridging the Gap, 22 percent of U.S. school districts required daily recess for elementary school students in the 2011–2012 school year. Of these, less than half enforced a requirement that this recess amount to at least 20 minutes a day.

Cut to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and the fellow who coined the term nature-deficit disorder. His book amassed and presented research that pointed to a direct link between a nature-deficient childhood and increasing obesity, ADHD, depression, and a lack of creativity in children. The book came out 11 years ago.

What has changed since then? Nothing.

In the film, Louv shakes his head as if visibly pained, as if unable to comprehend our national ignorance. To tell you the truth, I can’t quite wrap my own head around it. Who in his right mind would think kids don’t need to go outside and play? And yet I see it all around me. I see it in the three schools my kids attend. I see schools withholding recess as a punishment—sorry, “logical consequence”—for the kids who need it most, the ones who can’t sit still. (“Johnny, you were told to sit still, but I see that you aren’t able to do that. So you’ll stay in today. Maybe that’ll teach you.”)
“When,” Louv asks, “did we get the idea that recess was a waste of time?”

When, indeed. Watch the video here. Pass it on. Write to your school and school board. Rock the boat. Be that “problem parent” that schools dread. We owe our children that much.