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February 22, 2017 4:04 PM   Subscribe

My kids' school has outdoor recess guidelines that I would like to challenge. The kids are kept indoors in weather that I think is perfectly appropriate for outdoor play. A twist is that I think they and other schools may be basing their guidelines on a nonexistent medical association?

To determine whether the kids should go outside for recess, the school administrators look for a "real feel" temp of 25 or above (so for instance 30 degrees with a 6-degree wind chill means staying inside). This mark is very often not hit through the months of December and January, meaning the kids spend weeks indoors.

After a preliminary sally I was told that the school follows the "National Nurses Association" guidelines for outdoor recess in the cold. Here's the thing: I cannot find any evidence that this organization exists except in that multiple schools claim to follow their guidelines for outdoor recess. Am I just incapable of googling? Is there such an association? For an example of a school that references these exact guidelines, here's a link. (That is not my kids' school, just an example.)

Can anyone verify this National Nurses Association and their guidelines? Or do you know of any statements from pediatric medical associations or other respected experts encouraging outdoor recess in the cold?
posted by palliser to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's Fahrenheit? So 4 below zero celsius?
posted by Sebmojo at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yes, Fahrenheit. Sorry not to make that clear.
posted by palliser at 4:09 PM on February 22, 2017


Can't point to other experts, but these are the guidelines for schools in Toronto.

Apparently recess isn't cancelled here unless the temperature/wind chill go below -28C, which fits with my experience of never having had recess cancelled for cold as a kid.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think there might be a word missing from the name of the organization: the National Association of School Nurses (or National School Nurses Association) exists. I couldn't find any information on outdoor activities on their website, but that might be the organization people are referring to.
posted by whitewall at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2017


The American Association of Pediatrics says here that outdoor play should be encouraged barring weather that poses a significant health risk, such as "wind chill factor at or below minus 15°F." * Here they talk about no real standards/guidelines existing, and that it's in large part driven by local climate.

* brr
posted by obfuscation at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Seems like a lot of these school websites have copypasted policies and I'd be super curious to get to the bottom of this. You've probably already seen this site which sums up a lot of existing policies about cold weather play but just in case you haven't.
posted by jessamyn at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Might they mean the National Association of School Nurses? That's the closest I can find, but I don't see a position statement on weather, recess, or any form of physical activity. I also can't imagine a national recess-weather policy would be appropriate for schools ranging from Juneau to Miami....

If you are interested in countering this, you might consider looking to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Too Cold ” Policies

There are no national or professional standards for temperature or other weather conditions that preclude sending children outside for recess. Individual school districts often give decision-making authority to individual school principals, and the results vary widely. Students in northern Minnesota who can be expected to be dressed appropriately for cold weather may be sent out with the temperature at -15F, while students in Florida may be kept in when the temperature approaches 40-50F. Other factors, such as wind and precipitation, must also be taken into account.

[On preview, what whitewall and obfuscation said!]
posted by basalganglia at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


My daughter's school and son's daycare both set the limit at colder than -10F. Neither notice gives any rationale or cites a source. Didn't seem too out of the ordinary for Minneapolis.
posted by sanka at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


My kids aren't in school yet but our daycare providers in Ottawa usually keep the kids in when it's below -15C. There are lots of schools now that are outdoor only, including in the winter. The Child and Nature Alliance looks like an umbrella organization for those types of schools. I did a quick search but didn't see anything about temperature guidelines.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2017


Just to give y'all a laugh - at my school here in Florida the kids wait outside in the morning before homeroom starts. Unless it's under 50 degrees. Then we make them go inside.
posted by gnutron at 4:28 PM on February 22, 2017 [30 favorites]


The limits here in Fairbanks AK are that the kids go out to recess as long as temp/windchill are above -20F/-30C. (The weeks in January when they don't get to go outside are...hard). Also, they don't cancel school for cold, but will if we get freezing rain (and the busses can't go). I think the cutoff for the kindergarteners is -5F, though.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:34 PM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Something to keep in mind is whether the average student at a given school will be dressed for the weather.
posted by aniola at 4:37 PM on February 22, 2017 [28 favorites]


Another possibly-helpful datapoint: there is the American Nurse's Association. That's a labor union representing nurses, which the National Association of School Nurses appears to be part of.
posted by lunasol at 4:51 PM on February 22, 2017


Something to keep in mind is whether the average student at a given school will be dressed for the weather.

Or how the child with the least resources will be dressed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:29 PM on February 22, 2017 [57 favorites]


Are there time limits associated with the temps? Asking because I'm surprised to see that allowable temps in some places fall well below 0 degrees fahrenheit, i.e., into the frostbite danger zone. You all in AK and MN are raising some seriously hardy kids.
posted by she's not there at 5:58 PM on February 22, 2017


Are there time limits associated with the temps? Asking because I'm surprised to see that allowable temps in some places fall well below 0 degrees fahrenheit, i.e., into the frostbite danger zone. You all in AK and MN are raising some seriously hardy kids.

I grew up in Northern Minneosta from age 8 onward. Granted, I went to school back around when the USSR was still a thing, but frostbite was a thing that happened like a sunburn or chapped lips - I think every kid on the hockey team got frostbite at one time or other. Like a sunburn, frostbite comes in degrees - It hurts if it is on your nose or cheeks but on your ears isn't so bad. Frankly, I thought sunburns hurt more. I'm always kind of amused at how terrified people are of frostbite.

I can't recall a recess ever being called off for cold. Rain, sure. But cold ? In winter ? Nah. By the time I got to Jr. High and HS, the thought of wearing a hat to walk to school and ruining the hair (Mullet! Feathered!) I spent so much time prepping was Out Of The Question.

But yeah, different areas have different standards. My first winter in MN after having lived in the south my whole life was.... trying.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:27 PM on February 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


My daughter's public school operates on the assumption and observation that not everyone comes to school dressed for the cold weather. Their policy is clearly modeled around that, which is unfortunate.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:08 PM on February 22, 2017


Something to keep in mind is whether the average student at a given school will be dressed for the weather.

Or how the child with the least resources will be dressed.


I do keep this in mind. It's why our PTO provides cold-weather gear for kids to use for recess if they come unprepared (which includes plenty of affluent kids who just forget).

Something else to keep in mind is that lack of outdoor play is a real problem for poor children in cities, due to lack of safe outdoor space at home, or lack of caregivers to take them to parks. Outdoor recess is some kids' only access to recreation in the fresh air, which is why it's so important to preserve throughout the school year.
posted by palliser at 8:18 PM on February 22, 2017 [14 favorites]


It's why our PTO provides cold-weather gear for kids to use for recess if they come unprepared (which includes plenty of affluent kids who just forget).

Not for nothing, but kids in my school got mitts/hats etc. from the lost and found/free pile if they didn't have any/forgot/lost them. I may or may not have scavenged that pile for upgrades. Everybody had basically decent jackets - it's MN after all - you had to wear them ~9 months out of the year back then. But other stuff was... well, it was like warm food - if you needed it you got it.

But, you know, my school was Scandinavians, Polacks/Slavs, Native Americans, and Jews. Something something minorities band together.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:20 PM on February 22, 2017


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