Thanks for visiting us! We’re the Recess Moms. That title wasn’t always a term of endearment. It was the term district employees used to warn others that those pesky moms who wanted recess for their kids were in the building and roaming the halls to drum up support – as in “Uh oh, here come the Recess Moms!” But we quickly embraced the title and have come to be quite proud of it.
Of course, we’re not just moms. Although moms have been at the forefront of the recess efforts here in Florida, we’re really Recess Advocates. We’re all part of a great team, one that includes dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, principals, neighbors, community leaders and even some school board members and superintendents. We come from all walks of life and all political backgrounds – but our children unite us. We’re committed to turning the tide back toward a focus on the well-being of our children, and restoring daily recess was a great first step.
Along the way, we connected with moms who actively advocated for recess in Florida as far back as 2000, and again in 2003 and 2004. Our most recent efforts began again in 2014 in Lee County, with Lori and Tess leading the charge to bring daily recess to elementary school students there, eventually securing a 15-minute daily recess policy. Then came Kristi in Lake County, who gathered parents and was able to secure a 60-minute directive from the superintendent. Amy and Angela followed in Orange County – they got a non-PE day resolution first and then a daily policy after nearly two long years. Kate in Manatee County filed a lawsuit regarding inadequate recess time. In Polk County and Osceola Counties, Mandy and Gigi were able to get policies that vastly improved the state of recess in those counties. In Pinellas, Stephanie and Christie got their superintendent to direct that schools provide a break on non-PE days, and in Miami-Dade, Kate and her crew used their 10,000+ petition signatures to get their superintendent to allow recess for ad additional day each week. Lisa’s superintendent in Okaloosa directed that schools would give 15 minutes daily and Elizabeth in Duval worked hard to restore daily recess in her neck of the woods. And parents also advocated for change in Pasco, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Broward and Brevard, just to name a few.
But there was clearly more work to be done. Each of these “wins” was a compromise struck in order to achieve some sort of improvement for our kids, because they truly couldn’t afford to wait, while we moved on to advocating for the Gold standard at the state level. It was a lengthy and tiring race to “the best we could get” in our districts. None of our efforts resulted in the research-based 20-minute daily recess policy, not to be withheld for academic or punitive reasons, that is universally recommended by experts in child development, education, and health/wellness. The research is clear: children should receive 20 minutes daily of unstructured, free-play recess separate and apart from PE. It’s where they learn to be leaders, where they make friends, where they get the chance to choose what they need to do to decompress from the rigor and curriculum of the classroom. Common sense tells us that our children are worthy of a break each and every school day. And we were determined to get it for them.
After the filing of our recess bills during the 2016 legislative session, several counties enacted 20-minute daily recess policies for elementary school students: specifically, Seminole, Manatee and Orange. Osceola came very close as well. These districts came to understand just how important a daily break is for their young students, and we applauded their proactively enacting these policies in anticipation of an expected statewide recess mandate. Later, Marion’s superintendent indicated that 20 minutes of daily recess would begin with the 2017-2018 school year regardless of whether the recess mandate passed, because it was the right thing to do. The tide was turning!
In the summer of 2017, our recess mandate become law, and Florida become the first state in the country to meet both physical activity recommendations (150 minutes per week of structured physical education and at least 100 minutes per week - at least 20 minutes per day - of unstructured free-play recess) for its elementary school students, We are proud that we were able to come together to place the well-being of our children FIRST!