From the Principal: Play First, Then Eat

La Mariposa to Pilot Recess Before Lunch

Beginning Monday, March 5th, La Mariposa students will have a new lunch schedule, called “Recess Before Lunch.” All students, during their regularly scheduled lunch period, will be dismissed to the playground for recess before eating lunch. This new schedule is a significant change from the traditional lunch schedule found in about 90% of U.S. schools.

This change in schedule is being made to improve student nutrition and behavior at lunch, on the playground, and in the classroom. We are conducting a 3 week trial of this new schedule to measure its success. La Mariposa staff anticipates some bumps in the road as we make such a significant change to our schedule. We count on your input and support as we try this new practice. We will also ask the students to be flexible as we work through any of the bumps we encounter.

We hope that this new schedule will promote better nutrition, behavior, and student achievement for all of our students.



Below, you will see the new bell schedule, as well as answers to many of the questions we anticipate you will have. If your question or concern is not addressed below, or if you would like to talk about the new lunch schedule please call or email me at (805)987-8333 or

–Principal Jay Greenlinger


Q: Why Recess Before Lunch (RBL)?
A: Schools across the country have traditionally scheduled students’ recess after lunch. The main reason this has continued as the traditional schedule is because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” However, since 2003, significant research has been conducted to measure the effects of recess before lunch. This research indicates that when students have recess before lunch, they eat significantly more of their meals, have fewer discipline problems at lunch, and return to classrooms more ready to learn than compared with returning directly from the playground. This research tells us that recess before lunch may be better for students in many ways compared to the traditional “eat- then-play” schedule.

Q: How will students be dismissed from the playground to the lunch tables?
A: Students will freeze at the second bell. Students will be dismissed by campussupervisors from the playground areas (sandbox, swings, etc.) to the tables.

Q: Will students be able to wash their hands before eating?
A: Yes. There are two ways that students can clean their hands prior to eating lunch. The 5 minute “warning” bell that rings before the end of recess signals to students that they should use the restroom, get a drink of water, and wash their hands. There are two bathrooms each for boys and girls on the field. There is also a restroom for boys and for girls in the lunch area. Additionally, there are 4 automatic hand sanitizer dispensers in the lunch area. If you are concerned about hand washing, it is important for you to work with your child so that they recognize the importance of hand washing and set up a routine for themselves that includes washing their hands before eating lunch.

Q: How will lunches be distributed?
A: Each class has revolving student “jobs” that provide students the opportunity to be responsible for something in the classroom. When RBL begins, each class will designate students whose job it will be to hand out lunches when students arrive at the lunch tables.

Q: How will lunches get to the lunch tables?
A: Each classroom has a rolling cart or basket that will hold student lunches.  Each class will also have students responsible for bringing the cart or basket to the class’ lunch table. This may be a separate classroom job as the students passing out lunches; this will be a classroom by classroom decision.

Q: How will students use their lunch cards to purchase lunch, since they will be playing before they go to the cafeteria?                                                                                             A: Each morning, a lunch count is taken in every classroom. At that time, students who plan to buy lunch will have their cards set aside. These cards will be placed in the baskets or carts that carry lunches, and will be given to the food services staff at lunch time. We recognize there are potential flaws with this system, and will adjust our lunch purchasing routines to make lunch purchasing practices efficient and accurate.

Q: What will the end of the eating period look like?
A: There will be a 5 minute “warning bell” for students at the lunch tables to begin cleaning up their trash and preparing for the end of lunch. When the bell rings to end the lunch period, teachers will pick up their class from the lunch table and return to the classroom.

Q: If we make this change, how will we know if it is successful?
A: La Mariposa staff will use data we gather as well as observational data to determine if this trial is successful. Leading up to the change, teachers and campus supervisors will complete short surveys each day following lunch. The surveys will measure the staff’s perceptions regarding student behavior on the playground and upon their return to the classroom. We will compare this survey data with data collected in the same way during the trial. Campus supervisors and custodial staff will also provide observational data regarding the amount of food thrown away by students. If, after the trial ends, we see an improvement in behavior and a decrease in food thrown away; we will consider the trial a success and will keep the new lunch schedule.

Q: The new time seems late for my child to eat. What can be done to make sure they are properly nourished during the extended time before lunch?                                                A: The best thing students can do is have a healthy snack during recess to make sure that they have enough fuel to be comfortably nourished until their later lunch period.

Q: How will we know if RBL will continue past the 3 week trial?
A: March 23rd marks the end of the 3 week trial, and Mr. Greenlinger will send an All-Call home to let parents know if RBL will continue or if we will go back to the traditional lunch schedule.


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