School & District Management

Could ‘Play-First Lunch’ Make Your Job Easier?

By Francesca Duffy — May 27, 2011 1 min read
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Should kids go to recess before they eat lunch rather than after? Some in the Pleasanton Unified School District in California think so, according to an article in the Contra Costa Times.

The “play-first lunch” program—already used throughout Montana and in other states—first went into effect in Pleasanton at Alishal Elementary School two years ago, reports the newspaper, which covers the Contra Costa and Alameda counties in California. The concept spread to other schools in the district after administrators observed that students who went to recess first wasted less of their lunch food, were more focused in classes, and didn’t misbehave as much. “I think it’s done a lot of wonderful things for children’s ability to be able to return to class calmly and concentrate a lot more,” said Amy Simione, principal of Alishal.

Barbara Heisser, the principal of Donlon Elementary School, believes that playing first gives students the chance to “sit and take a breath” while they eat, since they already had the chance to release their pent-up energy.

However, Valley View Elementary, which will debut the alternate schedule this school year, is facing logistical challenges due to the scheduling shift, as well as resistance from some students. And the principal, Rafael Cruz, said lunch supervisors prefer to have recess as a “carrot,” so that students are more apt to remain quiet and clean up their trash after lunch. Cruz is taking students’ and teachers’ opinions into consideration through classroom votes and teacher feedback.

As noted in Teaching Now a few months ago, middle schools in Kansas have gotten some of the same outcomes—less food wasted and better in-class behavior—with a different scheduling approach: single-sex lunch and recess.

What are your thoughts on such non-traditional lunch and recess models?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.