Nancy Woelfel's students waved cardboard and poster signs taped to Popsicle sticks as they shouted "Recess every day. It's the best way." Teachers, custodians and students stopped in the hallways and peaked outside of their classrooms, greeted the marching students with thumbs up signs and wide grins. One fourth grade class rushed to the hallway and started chanting with the first graders, pumping their fists into the air.
Some first graders skipped as they shouted out their cause, holding up signs that read "Doctors say recess is as important as reading + writing" and "Kids need exercise every day."
Woelfel said teaching civic responsibility to her students will empower them to affect change in their communities. Last week, Woelfel found out her students didn't know why the country celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. When she asked them what they like to change in the school, many of them said they want recess on shorter school days. Woelfel said research showed recess helps students perform academically.
Vice Principal Stacy Levery said the school doesn't have recess on early dismissal days to focus on academics. The school has two hour early dismissal every day this week to accommodate high school midterm bus schedules, Levery said. She said during those days, students get physical activity through gym class and classroom activities. Levery said Woelfel's activity taught students to work together, share their opinions and use evidence to advocate for things they believe in.
"That's a powerful memorable experience that they'll carry with them for years and years," she said. She said school staff will consider the request for recess on short school days. On a regular school day, recess is about 20 minutes.
After the march, Woelfel read Martin Luther King Jr.'s story to her students and asked them what they learned from the activity.
Anna Latour, a first grader in Woelfel's class, said she learned about standing up for herself.
Woelful asked her class what they would do if they saw pollution or animal abuse. The students said they would speak up for other people as well.
One student, Sofia Camarena, was excited to see fourth-grade students cheer along with her because it was proof they inspired the older students.
But things may not immediately change, Woelfel and Levery warned the students. "You might be sad, but you won't be discouraged," Woelfel said.
"Did Martin Luther King give up?"