Winter weather can be kind or cruel to kids.
The kind part is when there's so much snow that school gets canceled. All hail the snow day!
The cruel part is when it's snowless, but so cold that you can't go outside. Boo to indoor recess!
At least, that's what most kids have been telling us. First came the lockdown last fall, when the sniper attacks had kids stuck inside for gym and recess for more than two weeks. Kids added some new words to their vocabularies: "Code Blue" and "lockdown."
Then came a winter that has been the coldest in the area since 1994. True, there were a few snow days, but there was even more indoor recess.
"We've only been outside, like, two times this year," complained Falynn Robeson, 9, of Germantown. She was interviewed while she played a furious foosball game with two friends last week at the Boys and Girls Club of Germantown.
When kids do go outside, teachers are strictly enforcing their usually loose you-must-zip-up-your-coats rule.
"They're actually checking us on that," said Max Golobo, 9, who was playing a video game at the club.
Kids aren't the only ones who hate it when they can't go outside day after day. Teachers look forward to a little break when the classroom empties.
"They use that time to plan, to set things up, to get everything in order," said Lawrence Chep, principal of Rachel Carson Elementary in Gaithersburg.
So, if teachers aren't getting those few minutes of peace, are they getting a little frazzled too?
"Well, there are some kids who have a lot of energy," Chep said, "and if they can't run around a little they're going to be pretty active in the classroom and that can be hard on everybody."
In other words: Yes, they're getting frazzled too.
Most of the kids we interviewed said they've been going stir-crazy stuck inside their schools so much.
"We hate it. All the kids hate indoor recess and gym," said Hilda Knuckles, 12. "Your friends get on your nerves; you're mad because you're hot and sweaty in gym. Kids with a cold give their cold to you."
Hilda was also hanging out after school at the Boys and Girls Club -- a very good place to be, especially when compared with school, she and others agreed.
On a day when the ground outside was soggy and the wind was sharp and cold, the year-old facility was buzzing with activity: Kids were doing homework, working on computers, reading, doing arts and crafts and blasting away in a four-way GameCube competition. Next to the purple pool tables and the foosball games, four boys were bouncing a red rubber ball.
Even Bighead and Speedy, the center's two gerbils, were busily scampering and snuffling around their cage.
Not everybody hates indoor recess. Chaz Offut, 11, a fifth-grader at Daley Elementary, took a break from the ball game to explain that he likes some things about staying inside. "The cool part is getting to go on the computer and play chess and card games," he said.
But most missed being able to run around in the open air.
"Outside's better," said John Phillips, 9, a fourth-grader. "We play basketball and stuff."
"Inside is boring," said Max, a classmate and friend. "We just play Connect Four all the time and these same board games."
Behind the boys, a small argument broke among the kids playing a Nintendo wrestling game, "No Mercy." It was quickly settled but may have been evidence of the tempers among kids who are starting to get tired of the wintry weather.
"I can't wait for summer," said John. "I like to ride my bike and play at the park and I'm going to be getting a dog."
Max said he finally couldn't stand it anymore and went outside in spite of the cold.
"I just really wanted to do my skateboarding," he said, noting that the chilly practice paid off. "Now I can do a 180!"
-- Fern Shen