Games of Four Square unfolded daily on the playground at Havel Elementary. At the time, I was focused on was having fun. But looking back now, I know Four Square was much more than a childhood game. On that blazing hot blacktop inside the painted squares, I learned profound life lessons.
The game taught me about structure and boundaries, it laid the foundation for understanding life’s rules. When an epic spike came my way or a good or bad call was shouted, I honed my problem-solving skills, and learned that resilience was key.
Four Square taught me that success is not just skill, but also careful planning, strategy, emotional regulation, and anticipation of my opponents’ moves. The simple act of being downgraded to square four or elevated to square one became a metaphor for life itself, a reminder that no matter how many times we missed the ball or achieved “King of the Square,” we can always start anew armed with wisdom from our experiences.
That time on the playground was more than just a break from the classroom; it was a vital component of my education, teaching me invaluable life skills that textbooks alone could not provide. I learned conflict resolution skills. I learned how to win. I learned how to lose. I learned resilience and confidence in myself as a young woman.
Unfortunately, many young people in Michigan are not getting that same opportunity. According to research conducted by Corona Insights on behalf of Playworks, 20% of K-12 students in Michigan receive less than the recommended 20 minutes of outdoor recess per day.
Michigan’s lack of any policy that requires school districts to provide elementary students with recess or playtime clearly doesn’t help.
That’s why legislation recently introduced in the Michigan House that would ensure young people throughout Michigan have access to recess as part of their school day is so important.
It’s why I find myself reflecting on the profound impact recess had on my own childhood. And why I am urging my colleagues in the Legislature to recognize the holistic educational benefits of recess and understand why every child in Michigan deserves this opportunity to learn through play.
Physical activity is vital to both the physical and mental development. Recess is not merely a break in the school day; it’s a crucial period during which children engage in unstructured, child-directed play. In those precious minutes, they run, jump, and climb, developing their intrinsic muscles and gross motor skills. They also hone their tracking skills, which are critical when learning to read. These activities are not just enjoyable but fundamental for healthy growth.
During recess, children engage in spontaneous games and activities, often with limited resources. In this setting, they become natural problem solvers, finding creative solutions to challenges that arise. These problem-solving skills extend beyond the playground, equipping them to navigate life’s complexities.
Does anyone else believe our children are lacking in resilience? Every fall and every scraped knee is a lesson in resilience. Through minor setbacks, children learn to bounce back, developing emotional strength and regulation that prepare them for life’s challenges.
Recess is also a great equalizer. Regardless of a child’s academic prowess or social standing, the playground welcomes everyone. It fosters inclusivity, teaching children the importance of acceptance and empathy. These lessons in empathy are as vital as any mathematical equation, shaping children into compassionate and understanding adults.
As a member of the House Education Committee, I am looking forward to taking up House Bills 5081 and 5082 and moving this bipartisan plan forward. These bills do not just allocate time for play, they give our children the tools they need to thrive in the world beyond the schoolyard.
Let’s make sure recess is not just a break from learning but an indispensable part of the school day. Our children deserve nothing less.
State Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, represents portions of Lapeer, St. Clair, and Macomb counties. She serves as the Republican vice chair of the House Education Committee.
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