Most of my elementary school memories are of recess, time I was able to spend with my friends and take a break from the school day. I remember playing on equipment that has largely disappeared from school playgrounds. I remember a favorite teacher coming out and playing catch with the boys.
I also remember running for my life when a girl named Christie tried kissing me in third grade when I was volunteered to be “the groom” for a make-believe wedding at the merry-go-round.
I guess not every memory is a pleasant one.
The thing I remember most is getting a significant break from the montony of the school day which was very much needed.
With the standards and accountability movement in education, along with its hyper-focus on testing, recess has become a luxury instead of a necessity for elementary school students.
It’s ridiculous. Even adults need a break during their workday, and kids are not adults. They need even more time. Now some states have passed laws stating students must have at least 20 minutes of recess.
I call that a start, but in actuality it should be more.
Time in a feature addressing the “recess debate” cites some of the evidence in support of recess:
A 2009 study found that 8- and 9-year-old children who had at least one daily recess period of more than 15 minutes had better classroom behavior. The study also found that black students and students from low-income families were more likely to be given no recess or minimal recess. That report reinforced the results of a 1998 study, which found that when 43 fourth-grade students were given recess, they worked more or fidgeted less than when they were not given recess.
When recess is eliminated or reduced, it is often because a school is allocating more time to subjects covered on standardized tests, aiming to improve student achievement. But a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found positive associations between recess and academic performance. “There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores,” the report said.
Another study, from 2016, found that young boys who spent more time sitting and less time playing didn’t progress as quickly in reading and math.
Studies also show that recess can improve student nutrition when held before lunchtime. A 2014 study published in Preventive Medicine found that holding recess before lunch increased students’ fruit and vegetable consumption by 54%.
This is simply common sense, something that it seems a lot of educrats have lacked as they push their reforms not considering the unintended consequences.