No Time For Play

The three-part radio series No Time For Play examines how schools in the Seattle area are increasingly limiting kids' physical activity and play times. It was reported by Ann Dornfeld and edited by Carol Smith.

Principals decide how much recess kids get; teachers want to bargain a minimum amount into their contract. Here, kids play at Sandel Park in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Last year, a KUOW investigation found that recess has been cut back at many Seattle schools – especially in low-income neighborhoods.

As KUOW’s Ann Dornfeld reports, now the teachers’ union is asking the district to require a minimum 45 minutes of recess in all elementary schools.

Signs promote lunch and recess for Seattle students.
Facebook Photo/Lunch and Recess Matter

The Seattle teachers’ union is clashing with the district over what should be on their new contract.

KUOW’s Ann Dornfeld talked with teachers at a union meeting at Benaroya Hall last night. She says along with the items you always see, like pay, this time there are new issues on the table.

The nonprofit organization Playworks has trained several dozen schools in Washington -- including Bellevue Public Schools -- how to turn recess from the traditional free time into an organized activity period.
Courtesy of Playworks

The recess for the youngest students at Ardmore Elementary School in Bellevue doesn’t look like your typical recess.

Flickr Photo/Joe Shlabotnik (CC-BY-NC-ND)

In decades past, elementary students had recess several times a day.

Today, parents and teachers across the country report dramatic cutbacks to that free time. In Seattle, the length of recess varies dramatically from school to school – from an hour to just 15 minutes.

Fourth-graders at Schmitz Park Elementary in West Seattle play capture the flag in their outdoor P.E. class.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

At a playfield in West Seattle, physical education teacher C.J. Sealey referees with a piercing whistle. Sealey aims to get these kids moving – after all, state law demands that elementary and middle school students get at least 100 minutes of P.E. every week.