One of my roles at St. Benedict Classical Academy is to facilitate recess duty for teachers. On a typical day, I facilitate five or more recesses outside on our schoolyard turf. I have been at SBCA for eight years and we have always prioritized outside play during the school day. We encourage a schedule where students go outside three times a day, in addition to morning drop-off recess. Children are able to play in the fresh air in all kinds of weather – rain, snow, sleet, sun… anything! (Only once has a child complained to me because of the weather, and considering the fact there are over 230 kids just this year, I think that is pretty good!)
During recess I see all different ages and personality combinations, and love to observe them interact with each other in a natural environment. Outside on the schoolyard they are free from any academic pressures or classroom distractions, and as I stand on the turf I see students connect with God through nature and the beautiful world He has created for them.
Our schoolyard certainly is not fancy – we do not have a playground or any of the bells and whistles you might see at other schools. However, I still see students find joy in playing outside at recess. Everything that they come in contact with outside, God has made. Well, everything except the occasional man-made product like an old jump rope or hula hoop that has somehow found its way to the turf…
On a personal note, I find that being outside in nature always makes me feel better. Even just taking a stroll outside helps to reset my emotions and open my mind for the tasks ahead. For students, being outside can help with creativity and future problem solving at many levels. I notice especially our students who struggle academically or with maladaptive behavior in school come outside and improve. These students who struggle academically can still find success in the outdoor classroom. They can excel at learning to love their neighbor and all God created outside. That is the focus of our work here at SBCA – to immerse our children in the good, the true, and the beautiful – throughout their entire day.
My favorite part about being outside at recess is learning little tidbits from the children. They will share fun facts about their families and ask to see cute pictures of my own grandchildren. I love being available to them during this time in their school day, and very much feel like a substitute grandmother to them. (I am a current grandmother to ten grandchildren, with our special Liam now in heaven.) I enjoy watching our students mature and guide their younger siblings and schoolmates along the way. Spending time with them outside, during those twenty minutes breaks, is a highlight of my day. This place is certainly a dream come true job for a former special education and second grade teacher, even if they do like to say that I am 90 years old!
AUTHOR: Maria Smith, Assistant to the Headmaster for Academics