News From the Lunchbox

Jefferson Elementary's Lunch/Recess Newsletter

Dear Jefferson Parents and Guardians,

Jefferson Elementary recognizes the importance of lunch and recess for our students. Recess at Jefferson provides them with opportunities to enjoy physical activity and self-directed play, to connect with the natural world, to interact with a diverse peer group, and to practice essential social skills. This inaugural issue of News From the Lunchbox, a new Jefferson Elementary Lunch and Recess triannual newsletter, will keep you up to date on what’s happening with lunch and recess, including rules, schedules, and more.

Recess provides children with time to engage in physical activity that helps them remain healthy, while providing them with more opportunities to practice life skills, including cooperation, sharing, negotiation, problem solving, and conflict resolution. We at Jefferson have seen these benefits have a consistently positive effect on classroom behavior and achievement, and, therefore, want to continue to remember that recess is a fundamental part of the entire day. To that end, our staff will continue to meet and brainstorm ways in which we can improve the experience our recess provides. Please send me a message if you have any questions or ideas for future issues of this newsletter. In the meantime, enjoy and stay tuned for the next issues of News From the Lunchbox.


Laura Swyberius

Assistant Principal

A Word From the District:

School District of South Orange and Maplewood Guidelines for Outdoor Recess in the Elementary Schools

Part of our healthy daily routine in the South Orange-Maplewood Schools includes outdoor recess at the elementary school. Research shows that children need fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. Physical activity is not only healthy for a child’s body, but it also stimulates brain activity. Play—whether vigorous or sedentary—can provide intense skill learning.

Physical activity is known to lessen the symptoms of mild attention deficit disorder, and is associated with much lower incidences of childhood obesity. A daily break of fifteen minutes or more in the school day plays a role in improving learning, social development, and health in elementary school children.

All six elementary schools strive for standardizing the decision-making for outdoor recess based on weather conditions, and elementary principals use the following guidelines to determine whether it is appropriate for students to go outdoors:

· Students have the appropriate clothing

· The temperature, including the wind-chill, is no lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit

· It is not raining heavily

· The wind is not excessive

· Playground safety is a factor at each individual school site

  • There are no icy conditions on the play surfaces
  • Steps and walkways are cleared of snow
  • There is no heavy ice on branches or power lines in or near the play area
  • Metallic playground equipment is not too hot to the touch
  • There is a sufficient number of staff members to supervise children both indoors and on the playground in the event it is necessary that a group of children need to remain indoors.

Keeping active everyday will help make children less vulnerable to illnesses in cold weather. Children are usually thrilled to go outside when the snow begins to fly. To ensure that children have a safe and fun winter at school, the following clothing is recommended: a winter jacket, a warm hat, warm mittens or gloves, and boots. This will ensure a comfortable recess for all. Dressing in layers helps to keep children comfortable during fluctuations in the temperature both indoors and outdoors.

Since children who have recess behave better and are likely to learn more, they should not be excused from outdoor recess without a written medical reason from a physician. Further, a child should not miss his or her entire recess period as a consequence for work missed in the classroom or as a consequence for an infraction.

Outdoor Recess

Jefferson has so many fun outdoor recess activities!

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Recess Rules and Reminders

Act safely and responsibly

  • Use the equipment appropriately and take turns
  • Ask an adult for help if you are having a conflict
  • Line-up quickly when the whistle is blown
  • Stand on line calmly and give others space
  • Speak respectfully to students and adults
  • Play fairly and show good sportsmanship

Reminders: Tips for having a great recess

  • Be positive and patient
  • Respect the differences in others. Isn’t it great that we are all unique?
  • Try to include everyone. Knowing that you have done the right thing is an amazing feeling.
  • If what you are doing is not working, then make a change.
  • Relax and play in your own way and let others do the same.

Have fun, fun, and more fun!!!

Indoor Recess Fun!

During inclement weather, recess takes place indoors in a variety of spaces within the building. Students will hear a "lunch/recess" announcement each morning letting them know if it will be an "indoor" or "outdoor" day. If the day is "indoors" the students will also hear the "shape" of the day. This shape corresponds to a schedule that let's each class know where they will play during indoor recess. Classes visit all spaces on a rotating basis.

What activities are available?

  • Air Hockey
  • Knock Hockey
  • Board Games
  • Dancing in the Auditorium
  • Free-Play in the Gym
  • Drawing
  • Legos

Jefferson Cafeteria Rules

During the 2013/2014 school year, Jefferson students worked together to create rules for the cafeteria that everyone could agree upon. Below are the key points they felt were important to ensure a happy, peaceful lunch experience.

Respect Yourself and Others

  • Clean up after yourself and leave your area ready for the next person
  • Use manners when you eat and don’t play with your food
  • Keep your voices at a low volume and don’t scream
  • Stop talking and look when you hear the clapping signal
  • Listen carefully to announcements and remain quiet

Act Safely and Responsibly

  • Wait your turn in line
  • Stay seated at your table
  • Walk to the garbage and don’t throw food or garbage
  • Ask for a pass to leave the cafeteria
  • Get help from an adult if you have a problem

Jefferson’s Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP)

Students at Jefferson are encouraged to request a mediation if they are experiencing a conflict with another student(s). The fourth and fifth grade Jefferson Student Ambassadors have been trained as student mediators and conduct mediations with the assistance of school social workers. Mediators are trained to help others resolve conflicts in a peaceful way. They do this by asking questions which help others talk about and make sense of a problem they have had with another person. Mediators guide people to come up with better ways to work out difficult situations so that both people can walk away happy!

How do students request a mediation?

  • Fill out the Mediation Request Form located in each classroom
  • Place the form in the red mediation envelope outside Mrs. Swyberius' office
  • Wait for a mediation coach to let you know when your mediation will take place

When do mediations happen?

  • Mediations happen during lunch time
  • You can wait on the bench by the nurse’s office for your mediators and adult coach, on the day of your mediation

Who can request a mediation?

  • A student can request a mediation for him or herself
  • A teacher or lunch aide can request a mediation for students
  • You do not have to participate in a mediation if you do not want to

Fourth and Fifth Grade Student Ambassadors

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Jefferson Recess Clubs and Activities

Nature Club: Thanks to parent volunteers Norman Cowie and Nancy Fitzsimmons, students at Jefferson have been given the opportunity to participate in the planting of native plants, bird watching, stream walks, and pathway construction. This year, the club has been meeting every Wednesday during the during the Fall and will resume meeting again in the Spring.

Student Newspaper: Students work with our librarian, Mrs. Diegnan, to create the Jefferson Spotter, a newspaper completely created by Jefferson students. For each issue, students are able to meet as a team three times and are responsible for the brainstorming, interviewing, and writing of all articles.

Singing Club: Jefferson parent, Philip Cohen, volunteers his time once a week during recess to come and sing with our students, while accompanying them on guitar.

Reading Buddies: Once a week during recess, third-grade students get to spend time reading with a Columbia High School buddy.

Elementors Ultimate Frisbee: During the Fall and Spring seasons, Columbia High School volunteers come to recess once a week and play Ultimate Frisbee with our fourth-grade students on the front lawn.

Drawing Club: We are always looking for new recess club ideas and are always excited when our students get involved. With the help of some of our fifth-grade artists, we recently launched the start of the Jefferson Drawing Club, which meets once a week in the library. If any parents are interested in volunteering to spend time with the Drawing Club, or have some artistic talents they would like to share with the students, please feel free to contact Assistant Principal, Laura Swyberius.

Food for Thought!

Recess Persectives

Different Places, Different Times, Same Fun...These National Geographic photographs show different recesses, taken over the years and featured in the magazine, from around the world.

[Reprinted from National Geographic's Web site: Accessed February 6, 2016.]

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