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We Believe: In Recess

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

At Blacksburg New School (BNS), we believe in recess. Alongside a strong focus on academics, we believe in the value of outdoor play. Whether it’s being engaged in an all-school capture-the-flag game, building ephemeral creations in the sand box, swinging on the swingset, playing a vigorous game of four-square, swishing baskets with friends on the basketball court, or just imagining a new world beneath the sweeping tendrils of the willow tree, outdoor play is an integral part of the BNS curriculum.

The importance of outdoor play is not a new idea. There are various research studies on the benefits of recess, including providing children with more exercise, reducing stress, increasing social development, and fostering curiosity and creativity. “Outdoor play helps children grow socially, helping them to develop healthy ways of forming friendships, responding to physical interaction, and using their imaginations to entertain each other,” says Dr. Katie Lockwood, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It helps them solve problems, build relationships within their peer group and gain a respect for nature.”

However, not all local schools are able to provide the level of outdoor play that is built into our curriculum at the BNS. At Blacksburg Middle School (BMS), a local public school, a teacher explained that “aside from PE, students enrolled in BMS are only allowed outside for 20 minutes once a week, where they run around in the field or the parking lot if the field’s too wet.” A former BNS alumnus (now at Blacksburg High School) added, “in high school, if we are lucky, the PE teacher will take us outside once or twice a week to walk in circles around the track, if the weather is good. Or if there’s a fire drill.”

At Blacksburg New School, outdoor free play lets kids be kids, while at the same time allowing them to grow and learn in ways that aren’t possible when limited to inside classroom instruction. A BNS alumni parent recalled her children creating an intricate trading network between various grade levels on the playground. The students organically invented a unique playground economy. “Ground red wood dust was the most valuable, and used for trading. Small shops developed in tree alcoves, where trade flourished - a barter economy to get cool sticks, acorns, pinecones, or branch wreaths. White fully-dried sand from the sandbox was also in demand, and pine-needles were collected to build forts.”

Impromptu sporting events flourish on our playground, with participants in all grades working together to set up games. A knock-out game on the basketball court, four-square by the art room, or large soccer games on the lower field are quite popular. But none of these are as popular as the omnipresent capture-the-flag games. One former BNS student, now in high school, fondly remembered this as one of her favorite playground activities.

Recess, and outdoor play in general, is an integral part of the philosophy at Blacksburg New School. Whether it’s before school, during snack, in their PE class, after school, or in an impromptu play session, all students at BNS love the ability to get out of the classroom, and explore the endless possibilities of our playground.

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Blacksburg New School believes that #recess is just as important as academic learning. So much, in fact, that it's a critical element of our curriculum and is built into every day for snack & lunch recess and outdoor PE. #play #learning

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