May 24, 2021

All kids deserve to have recess next school year

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All kids deserve to have recess next school year 1

As school leaders, educators, and families think ahead to the new school year, they are faced with tremendous challenges to ensure school experiences are safe for kids. They have a critical role in creating the conditions needed to help kids recover from lost learning and the trauma caused by the pandemic, especially for families in low-income or socially vulnerable communities.

Along with parents, there is a shared understanding among educators, school leaders, researchers, and child psychologists that the 2021-2022 school year will be critical in shaping kids’ experiences and the adults they become. One important decision that will be crucial to these two factors in the new school year and that many schools now face is whether they will or will not have recess next year.

Part of the challenge in making this decision is that schools don’t know where to turn for guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not provided official guidance to schools specifically about recess. The CDC does, however, recommend outdoor activities, “cohorting” groups of students, mask wearing, and physical distancing—all of which are possible during recess. Most state departments of health or education also have not provided guidance to schools about recess. Some states have mandates of minimum number of minutes for recess, so schools and districts have to figure out for themselves how to host recess safely that ensures quality, COVID-safe recess experiences. And at other schools, recess may not have been part of the regular school day before the pandemic, so getting back onto the playground might feel especially daunting.

The Many Benefits of Recess

Recess is a critical time in the school day, and all kids deserve to experience it next year. A growing body of research supports the physical, social, and emotional benefits kids get from playing at recess.

“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles.”

A big focus for educators now is how they will build social connections with and among kids. Play can create opportunities for kids and adults to feel emotionally and physically safe so that they can develop strong relationships and build healthy communities. According to researchers, recess can be the foundation to helping kids recover from trauma and learning loss. Many parents agree, as over the past year, they have prioritized the purpose of education differently—from primarily building academic skills to supporting social-emotional development as well.

How to Create COVID-safe Recess

The good news is that it isn’t hard to create a COVID-safe environment for recess—it just takes intentionality and planning. Playworks, a national nonprofit leveraging the power of play to bring out the best in every kid, offers free tools, COVID-safe games, and resources to support school leaders and educators as they reintroduce in-person recess. Here are some examples:

  • Journey around the World:
    • Have the group of students spread out and explain to them that they are going on a journey around the world using motion and creativity.
    • Choose one student to pick the first destination, then ask another student to choose the mode of transportation to get there, such as hopping to Kenya.
    • Have the students act out the mode of transportation in their locations for a few seconds before reaching the destination.
    • Upon “arrival” after a few seconds of the activity, ask a few of the students what there is to see/do while there and act those out accordingly.
    • Ensure every child has an opportunity to provide some input into the journey and let this be as student-driven as possible.
  • Switch:
    • Play on a foursquare court or map a larger space using cones or chalk to make a square and put one cone or X-mark with chalk in the middle. One player stands on each corner and one in the middle.
    • The person in the middle says “switch” to start the game and then all players must find a new corner/cone to occupy. No player can go to the center cone.
    • If two players arrive at the corner at the same time, a quick rock-paper-scissors is played, and the winner stays at the corner. The group tells the person who is less successful “good job” or “nice try” and the student joins the line of other students.
    • The next person in line becomes the person in the middle and begins the next round by saying “switch.”

One key component in the design of a COVID-safe recess is mapping the space. The playground can feature different stations for cohorts to visit until all kids can play together safely at school—using cones, chalk, lines, and more. Indoor space can be mapped too—in classrooms, hallways, auditoriums, and more—to ensure kids can play indoors safely. Playworks’ Safe Return to Play Training and Playworks School Reopening Workbook both feature ways to think creatively about mapping spaces to maximize COVID-safe play.

All kids deserve to have recess next year. The pandemic has established new norms throughout our society, and it presents us with that same opportunity in education. We have an unprecedented chance to prioritize equitable opportunities for play for all kids returning to school next year. Because there isn’t formal guidance and it is left up to each school, we all have a critical role in making safe and fun recess come to fruition for every kid.

Biden’s nominees would bring diversity to the Fed—if they’re confirmed

President Biden has announced his roster to fill key vacancies on the Federal Reserve’s 7-seat Board of Governors. If confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s nominees would advance his economic agenda at the central bank. They would diversify the ranks of economic policymakers and likely tighten supervision of Wall Street.

Sarah A. Binder

Senior Fellow – Governance Studies



Mark Spindel

Chief Investment Officer, Potomac River Capital LLC

These nominations follow in the wake of Biden’s decisions late last year to reappoint Jerome Powell to a second term as Fed chair and to elevate Lael Brainard as second in command. Powell and Brainard already serve as confirmed governors, but the Senate will also need to approve their four-year leadership posts. If the Senate confirms all five, Biden’s Fed appointees would reverse the heavy GOP-tilt of the Board engineered by the Trump administration.  
Here’s what you need to know.
Diversity counts
Biden has nominated two Black economists, Michigan State’s Lisa Cook and Davidson College’s Phillip Jefferson, to seats on the Board. He has also named former Fed governor and Treasury official, Sarah Bloom Raskin, as the Fed’s vice chair of supervision, a position Congress created in the wake of the global financial crisis as the Fed’s top banking cop.
These appointments help to diversify the Fed’s almost exclusively white ranks. Since Congress revamped the Federal Reserve Act in 1935, creating the 7-seat Board of Governors, 82 people have served on the Board. Just three of them were Black men, and ten of them were white women. And while Biden’s nominations augment the Fed’s racial diversity, confirming Cook, Brainard, and Raskin would expand the number of women governors by just one, since both Raskin and Brainard already have Board service under their belts. Notably though, this would be the first Board with a majority (four) of seven seats filled by women governors.
Rough waters ahead?
Observers expect a broad swath of Senate Republicans to vote to confirm Powell, a Republican, to a second term as chair. However, it remains to be seen how many, if any, Republicans will vote to confirm the other four nominees. Of course, Senate Democrats—if they stick together—can confirm all four without any GOP support, since Democrats banned nomination filibusters back in 2013.
Like most Congressional decisions, Fed confirmation votes are more contentious today than they were even 15 years ago, before the global financial crisis. The figure below shows shrinking Senate support on final confirmation votes for Fed nominations since the Reagan administration. Of those nominees considered on the Senate floor between 1982 and 2011, only one, Alice Rivlin, received less than 94% of the vote. The most dramatic contests came in 2020: The GOP-led Senate rejected Trump’s nominee, Judy Shelton, by a vote of 47-50, and just barely confirmed another Trump nominee, Christopher Waller. Four other Trump picks never even made it to a floor vote.

Nor can Biden count on filling the Board swiftly. Prior to the financial crisis, nominees waited about three months on average for confirmation. After the crisis, the wait time ballooned closer to eight months. The Senate took nearly ten months to confirm Waller, a record delay for the contemporary Senate’s handling of Fed nominees. Even with Democrats in control this year, Republicans have found ways to slow down the Senate.
Beware partisan crosshairs
Decades of rising partisanship are seeping into senators’ views of the Fed, often turning otherwise low profile Board nominations into politically charged votes. At the same time, public attention to the Fed has grown with its expanding imprint on the economy.   
The central bank has played an outsized role in stemming the economic damage caused by the global financial crisis in 2007-08 and the global Coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21. And with interest rates near zero, central bankers need to use more creative and often contentious tools to manage the US economy. Critics from both sides of the partisan aisle blame the Fed for either doing too much—or too little—to stem an array of old and new problems.
Add in rising expectations that the Fed will hike interest rates early this year to combat inflation and a hot economy, these nominees will face questions at the core of central banking—how fast and how soon to take away the punchbowl. Raising the price of money is never easy, but this Board could find tightening especially difficult given the addition of Biden’s governors committed to the Fed’s goal of a stronger and more racially inclusive labor market. 
The parties also disagree about whether the Fed can or should do more to combat climate change, especially in light of Congress’s own tentative steps. Democrats want the Fed to use its supervisory powers to force banks to address climate risk in their lending decisions; Republicans think such policies fall outside the Fed’s mandate. Partisans also contest whether the Fed should do more to redress racial economic inequities.
Presidents use appointments to advance their agendas. The Fed is no exception, despite the myth that central banks like the Fed are “independent.” But given the often partisan Senate confirmation process, Democrats will likely need to hang together to get Biden’s picks over the finish line.

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