A flurry of activity flooded the Oglethorpe Point Elementary School playground Monday as two kindergarten classes descended on shiny jungle gyms.

Each school day, kindergarten through 5th-grade students pine for their coveted recess time, and under a bill passed earlier this month by the state House of Representatives, that time may become law.

House Bill 273, which passed the state House earlier this month, would require school systems develop and implement a policy that allots 30 minutes of unstructured play time for every school day. The bill does not require additional recess time on days when students already have physical education classes.

Stephen George, a physical education coach at Oglethorpe Point, thinks the move would be a good idea.

“I would definitely be behind the bill,” George said, who has taught athletics for 26 years. “It’s important that little kids get the exercise they need — organized and unorganized play.”

With seemingly limitless energy, elementary school students benefit from not only unstructured recess time, but also organized physical education classes, George said.

“Of course they need some time to go play and have recess everyday, but there’s also more organized (physical education) classes,” George said. “We teach sports, teamwork and really try to expose them to more activities.”

Fifth graders in George’s classes are learning volleyball this week, and they also learn basic exercises to help keep them healthy.

“We do different daily exercises, “George said. “Today (Monday), we did flutter kicks and mountain climbers. They are learning the different muscle groups and how those exercises use different parts of their bodies.”

Involving parents is also a big part of keeping kids healthy, George added. Each year, students participate in a fitness assessment that includes push-ups, sit-ups and running. The assessment is not meant to pressure children, and there is no “pass/fail” component, George said. Rather, the assessment is meant to give parents a better idea of where their child’s fitness stands.

Many of George’s students are also involved in extracurricular activities like soccer and other sports, which helps keep them healthy, he said.

“We’re lucky that we have so many kids involved in sports outside of school,” George said. He added that robust athletics programs — both inside and out of school — can help reduce childhood obesity rates.

There is also a social component to physical education and athletics, George pointed out.

“Especially when they’re young, it’s important for them to learn skills like teamwork, and getting along with their friends,” George said.

Recess also gives the youngsters a chance to take their mind off schoolwork and burn off some of their energy, said Kristi Collins, an Oglethorpe Point kindergarten teacher.

“All morning, they’re in class working hard,” she said Monday as she supervised recess time. “They get to come out here and run around. It’s good because their focus is usually a little better after some fresh air and running around.”

Like George, Collins thinks state-mandated recess time could be a good thing.

“As you can see, they’re pretty active out here,” she said.

House Bill 273, titled the “Quality Basic Education Act,” passed the Georgia House 147 to 17 on March 3. State Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, voted in favor; Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, was excused from the vote; Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, did not vote. The bill has been read and referred by the State Senate, which would have to pass it for it to reach the governor’s desk.

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