Do kids really need recess?

Recess = Key Part of Learning

In today’s fast-paced, test-results and data focused school world, one of the first things to go is recess. At least 40% of schools have eliminated it altogether. Not only has recess been eliminated but students are spending more time sitting… and sitting… and sitting, all the while expected to stay focused and productive.

I recently met with the principal of a small private school that focuses on educating students with dyslexia. Originally an educator in the public school system, she started the school after home schooling her own daughter who could not get the services she needed in the public school system.

Brookwood Christian School provides a full curriculum of studies from kindergarten through high school and recess is a part of the day for all ages. Students get several breaks throughout the day and on the day that I toured the school, at least one class was outside on the playground involved in old fashioned unstructured play.

In the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, the author, Daniel Pink notes the many benefits of regular daily recess for students:

  • kids work harder
  • focus better
  • fidget less
  • make better grades
  • develop social skills
  • develop more empathy
  • cause fewer disruptions
  • even eat healthier

Contrary to the current trend, breaks and recess aren’t deviations from learning;  they are a necessary component of the education process. Research shows that while involved in recess and active breaks, the brain is actually still working. Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygenation in the brain, all necessary for boosting neural connectivity and stimulating nerve cell growth which in turn sets the stage for learning.  In fact, physically active children, consistently out perform inactive peers academically both short term and long term. In Finland, noted for their high academic performance, students get a fifteen minute break every hour.

In order to get the most benefit from recess, here are a few additional pointers:

  • Schedule recess before lunch for the most productive return and also to develop a healthier lifestyle.
  • Go minimalist–no need for fancy equipment. Encourage kids to use their imagination and creative thinking.
  • Avoid using recess as a punishment for not performing in class. Instead recognize it as a necessary  ingredient for academic success.
  • Recognize that everyone needs a break to be the most productive and make sure teachers also have an opportunity to relax and re-energize.

Want to read more?  Here’s a great article: Education and Recess

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