Our Kids Don't Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

An elementary school in Kentucky is installing “pedal desks” so students can pedal while they work. Estes Elementary School kindergarten teacher Faith Harralson won a $12,000 grant from the school system to install “pedal desks” in her classroom. Harralson said the desks help “when kindergartners get tired of sitting still.” Yeah. You know what else helps with that? Recess.

Our kids need recess, not pedal desks so they can move while they work like little bots. Seriously, is this real life? Why are kindergartners even sitting in one place long enough to need pedal desks? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves.

“I’ve seen a shift in my students’ behavior and engagement since the bikes arrived,” Harralson told NBC. “Thanks to good engineering, the pedals are essentially noiseless and don’t interfere with instruction or activities.” Oh, yeah. God forbid we interfere with instruction. Kids must focus, focus, focus!

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Look, no one’s arguing against kids getting more exercise — that idea is fantastic. But maybe we need to focus on the real problem: that the 20 minutes of recess our kids are being allotted is not enough. They’re restless for a reason. They’re not being given enough unstructured time at school to run around and burn off energy. We don’t need to be looking for “solutions” for restless kids: we need to let them out of the classroom again.

There seems to be a general consensus that the disappearance of recess is terrible, yet nothing is being done about it. Why? How hard would it to re-introduce that time into our kids’ school days? Study after study shows that more unstructured play is better for our children, yet we keep moving further and further away from it due to staffing and budget concerns. We’re failing our children by not allotting enough money for this.

When a Texas school expanded their recess time to two 15 minute breaks in the morning and two 15 minute breaks in the afternoon, they got immediate positive results. Teachers were worried about losing class time for instruction at first, but immediately began to notice that they were able to cover more ground because with the added exercise, students were less fidgety and more focused.

It’s not just the physical break kids need — it’s a mental one, too. They need a few minutes of not being under a teacher’s microscope. They need to interact with each other organically and without instruction. They rarely get the time away from parents at home to do it anymore, and they’re not getting it at school, either. Pedaling on a desk while working is not going to provide that respite.

Like generations before them, kids just need to get out and play. Why are we over-complicating this? At a time when we so sorely need advocates and solutions for vanishing recess in schools, focusing on alternatives that keep kids in the classroom doesn’t seem like the best money or time spent.

If these desks are in addition to and expanded recess time, great. But we shouldn’t be looking to things like this as a solution. They’re not.

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