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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas says it's revisiting guidance of math, engineering centers as recess

Students at North Shore Elementary in St. Petersburg participate in recess last year, before all schools were required to offer it. Starting in August, a new state mandate says all traditional public schools must offer 20 minutes of free-play recess every day. The school district, however, suggested math and engineering centers can be considered free-play opportunities.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Students at North Shore Elementary in St. Petersburg participate in recess last year, before all schools were required to offer it. Starting in August, a new state mandate says all traditional public schools must offer 20 minutes of free-play recess every day. The school district, however, suggested math and engineering centers can be considered free-play opportunities.

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August

Some Pinellas County school district parents were rattled when guidance given to schools solely named math and engineering centers as suitable ways to spend unstructured, free-play recess.

Following the statewide mandate signed into law earlier this summer, which does not specify whether recess could be spent indoors or outdoors, the district included this in its teaching and learning handbook given to schools:

"Math and engineering centers can be offered as safe, unstructured, free-play opportunities, both in the classroom and in a makerspace. Centers can include math games using the PCS Games Documents, a copy of which has been printed for every teacher. Other center options include, but are not limited to, construction challenges using Legos or blocks, design activities using pattern blocks and tangrams, and hands-on measurement stations using rulers, balance scales, and graduated cylinders."

Reached by the Times on Monday, Pinellas' executive director for elementary education Shana Rafalski admitted the guidance "doesn't necessarily reflect the spirit of (the law)."

"This probably is out of context in the teaching and learning handbook, and I'll revisit this," she said. 

Rafalski said the guidance was meant to address some teachers' concerns about the loss of math time, since the recess minutes would be taken out of that block. She said the math and engineering centers mentioned in the guidance were just one option out of several ways schools can give recess.

Rafalski said the teaching and learning handbook, "probably didn't recieve the attention to detail with the additional options," and said more options will be added to the guidance in the near future. The Times will follow up on what those options are.

Florida's new recess mandate requires elementary schools to provide at least 20 consecutive minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess every day.

Florida Senate President Pro-Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami), a sponsor of the recess bill, said in a statement that Pinellas' guidance went against the intent of the bill.

"Math and engineering skills are important; however, the bill was intended to provide students with unstructured free-play, and research tells us that in turn leads to better performance in academics," she said. "Free play means just that: let kids be kids and play."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

[Last modified: Monday, August 7, 2017 12:49pm]

    

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