‘Enhanced’ recess benefits underserved students

A Recess Enhancement Program coach from Asphalt Green gets second and third graders from P.S. 443 moving during its Rock N Recess event.
Community News Group / Jaime Williams

One nonprofit organization is redefining recess.

Asphalt Green is changing the way kids in underserved Bronx schools play through its Recess Enhancement Program.

The program, which hosted a ‘Rock N Recess’ event at co-located P.S. 443 and 457 on Friday, January 30, brings trained coaches to schools to get kids exercising during recess with games.

“The goal is for recess to be an active, safe and fun time for kids,” said REP manager Ben Gologor.

Started in 2001, REP serves more than 28,000 kids across the city in 61 schools, about 9,900 of them young Bronxites.

Two trained coaches visit the schools twice a week, and periodically host the Rock ‘N Recess events with additional coaches.

They lead the kids in active games wherever the school has free space—not only in the gym but in auditoriums and hallways.

“My main goal is how am I going to get these kids to move today, whether it’s indoors or outdoors?” said coach Ashley Freeman. “We make sure they’re getting the exercise they need, so when they go back to the classroom they’re focused.”

Getting the kids moving is especially important, and more challenging, during the winter months, said Gologor.

“They’re very creative with space,” said Pamela Lee, principal of P.S. 443. “They think outside the box, and we need that.”

The supervised games teach the students how to play safely and cooperatively, said Lee, and she believes the program has helped decrease the behavioral incidents that tend to pop up near the end of the week.

Recess can be a challenging part of the school day for kids, said Gologor, when certain conflicts and bullying start.

“That’s where you see a lot of problems that transfer to the classroom,” said Gologor.

The curriculum of 150 games REP uses is designed to include every kid and ensure equal participation. The kids never pick teams themselves or get ‘out’ of the games.

The program continues to have an influence even when coaches aren’t on site.

REP offers professional development for school staff and aides, to encourage them to engage with the kids during recess and help get the games started.

That extra support has been valuable to the staff at P.S. 457, said principal Lisette Febus.

“Our school aids enjoy lunch and recess more than before,” she said.

And the kids enjoy it more too.

“They love it when the Asphalt Green coaches come in,” said Febus. “They look forward to every Tuesday and Thursday.”

These multiple benefits are all part of REP’s goal to help students at schools where resources are stretched thin, said Gologor.

“It helps them physically,” he said about enhanced recess. “But it helps them mentally and emotionally as well.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwill‌iams@‌cnglo‌cal.com.

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