Whitehall Elem. Principals Respond to Video Games at Recess
'We will always evaluate new ways to deliver a healthy experience to the students of Baldwin-Whitehall School District.' - building principals
The thought of elementary school students playing video games during recess is tough for many parents to handle.
But administration within the Baldwin-Whitehall School District and directly within Whitehall Elementary School are defending the practice, saying that it "incorporat(es) physical play using Nintendo Wii technology."
In response to a report from WPXI, in which Lisa Di Cesare, a parent of Whitehall students, is quoted as saying, "They're (Di Cesare's children are) not happy about it. They want to be outside playing with the groups of friends they choose. I think you should let kids go on the playground and let them play what they want with who they want," Whitehall Elementary Principal Jennifer Marsteller and Assistant Principal Anissa Rosenwald published a statement on their school's website on Wednesday.
"We received a visit from WPXI-TV, which is how we were made aware of an interest in learning more about this recess activity," the statement reads, "so we felt it was important to share our thoughts with our Whitehall Elementary families."
"We will always evaluate new ways to deliver a healthy experience to the students of Baldwin-Whitehall School District.
"Embracing new opportunity is an important part of our mission to provide the best experience for students, both in and out of the classroom. Here in Pittsburgh, and in gaming development companies all over the world, experts agree to the effectiveness of advanced technology to encourage behavior changes by rewarding vigorous activity and healthy habits.
"In this case, we think students can benefit from the technology of physical gaming and may find more opportunities for social inclusion, greater access to physical activity, less individual conflicts on the playground and a more enjoyable recess for our students, overall. And since this new program occupies just 16 percent of our recess schedule, there is adequate time for a student to enjoy traditional indoor and outdoor games and activities."
Click here to read the full statement.
Nintendo Wii technology uses what the Wii website refers to as "active play" in which participants use "motion-control gaming ... enhanced by your own body's movements."
At a B-W School Board meeting on Wednesday, board member Larry Pantuso asked district administration to explain to local residents why a new recess format at Whitehall (which includes occasional video games) is being implemented there but not at other elementary schools.
While clarifying that he wasn't sure how he felt about the new format, Pantuso said, "I think, as a good business practice, if something works good one place, then we should look at adopting it everywhere."
Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz responded, saying that a number of variables at Whitehall Elementary—a lack of blacktop space (in case of wet, muddy conditions on playing fields), a large student body (estimated at 750 students), injuries and bullying—necessitated a change in recess structure.
"I am in support of the program," Lutz said. "Ultimately, kids outside every day if it's nice—that's perfect. I would agree with that. But the reality is that, when there are so many children out there, and there's a (limited) window to serve lunch ... there are some limitations.
"They (Whitehall administration) didn't take something that was working and break it. It was something that, really, was not working well, and we were looking for solutions—utilizing the configuration of the field, the blacktop space and the proximity to the gymnasium (where the Wii games are played).
"It fits. It works. There's enough activity. The frequency in which they (students) are inside is basically one day out of a six-day rotation. It's not like they're always inside."
Activities available for students on their turn inside the gymnasium besides Wii gaming include basketball and relay races.
Lutz suggested that students' indoor recreation can often be more active than if they were outdoors, saying that some students choose to simply walk around or stand still while outside.
"We're not gonna make everybody happy, no matter what we do," Lutz said. "But for the benefit of all students ... it is better. For the benefit of all, it's a better structure."
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