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Pool Noodles & Jump Ropes: How One ATPE Member Reimagined Recess During COVID-19

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 2/24/2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended so many parts of Texas public education. Upon realizing that even recess would look different during the pandemic, ATPE member Jasmine Dayton got creative and found new ways students could safely socialize with one another. 

Dayton is a fourth grade reading/language arts teacher at Jackson Elementary in Lamar Consolidated ISD. This is her fifth year at Jackson. Dayton has been an ATPE member since 2015 when she was a student at Texas State University. 

ATPE reached out to Dayton to learn more about how she reinvented recess for her students. 

Explain these activities you’ve created for students during recess.
At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, our district chose to have a blended model of virtual and face-to-face instruction. As an elementary teacher, one of my concerns was allowing children to still enjoy the outdoors and their time with friends at recess. I first reached out to my neighborhood Facebook group asking for any old pool noodles as the summer was ending and I thought my neighbors might have them sitting around. I wanted to invent a game called “noodle tag.” I wanted students to play tag while social distancing and refraining from skin-to-skin contact, so I thought maybe they could play tag by tapping their classmate’s “noodle hand.” From there, I got an outpouring of support from neighbors and a church that supports our campus. I received classic games such as paddle boards, ball-in-cup games, bubbles, and jump ropes. I was able to teach students so many classic games. As they were playing, I began to reminisce about my own childhood recess, and we used the jump ropes to play four square by creating squares! So neat! Then I asked the students randomly if they have ever played with hacky sacks, and they replied no! I worked hard to find them [hacky sacks], and believe me, I didn’t think it would be that hard! Apparently, they are not as popular as they used to be. Anyway, that is the next activity I plan on sharing with students as they pass a ball with their foot rather than their hands. 

This really helped students’ morale increase, from my observations. I noticed they went from being sad about recess to being excited, and they even began to create games among themselves. For fourth graders, this was an amazing experience to witness as they began to enjoy socializing again. 

Why was it important for you to shift from a normal “monitor the kids at recess” assignment to an engaging activity for you and the students?
I was concerned student morale was low. I was concerned they would have limited interaction due to COVID-19. I wanted to keep the kids safe in a creative way. As soon as I found out they would not have their normal recess equipment (soccer balls, footballs, etc.), [I thought] “I have to get creative!” 

What do you want people to know as educators work to serve students and their districts during these challenging times?
As an educator during a pandemic, these are very challenging times. Our communities, our school, and our teachers all have to work together as a team for positive outcomes. 

Anything else you want readers to know?
I believe in our school motto, “Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes.” This is so true during this pandemic, even more than ever!