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Recess is Back!

Recess is not always mandated in the education system. Many schools in the United States have experienced periods without recess, calling them unproductive or unnecessary. Time for breaks is particularly short in school districts with low-test scores. There is pressure to increase time spent in the classroom with the intention to boost test scores. Recess is seen, by some, as a waste of time and therefore is limited and sometimes even taken away entirely. One of the biggest reasons for taking away recess is because administrators feel there is not enough time in the day for students to learn all of the required material. Some administrators feel that allotting a time for recess hinders learning, when in fact this is quite the opposite. A break in the middle of the day allows children to actually be more productive and focused. Multiple studies show that a break leads to more focus and better behavior. Educators advocate for an established break at least once in the day in order for students to give their brain a rest. This “brain break” is not specific to grade. Students of all ages need a rest when learning or studying for hours on end.

The idea of thinking smarter not harder comes to mind in regard to recess. When a ton of pressure is put on children all day, they are forced to think harder. With a regular break during the day they are actually able to be more calm and think in a more clear and concise way. Children pick things up faster if they are not focused on one task for hours on end. By giving them a break we are allowing them to utilize their brains to the best of their ability.

The way that children interact with one another during recess is also a factor that administrators are addressing. The main goal of any parent of a school-aged child is for them to feel safe, happy, and engaged. With the right tools, recess can create this type of atmosphere for students. It may be funny to think that there is a proper way for children to take a break, but it is actually quite important. There have been instances where recess turns into a chaotic and socially disorderly time. A lack of rules or supervisors during recess can lead to cases of bullying and even foul play. Developing a recess program avoids the possibility of a harmful situation during what is supposed to be a fun and relaxing time for the students. Games encouraging conflict resolution, group involvement, positive attitudes, and learning have an extremely powerful impact on the students. This idea of “positive play” is rather new and is not implemented in every school system. Having the guidance of an adult during this time makes students feel safer and prevents unwanted or harmful behavior.
There are other opinions that suggest structuring a child’s recess may not be the best idea. Allowing children to create their own games and play how they want increases creativity and individualist thinking. It is agreed, though, that supervision must be required and that the safety of the children is the number one priority. What is the best way for children to play? That is left up to the school system, but there is no doubt that recess allows kids to think faster and more clearly.

Not only is recess a time for social interaction with classmates, but also helps to achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Getting up and moving your body after being sedentary all day is helpful in releasing built up energy and increasing brain activity. The use of sports as an activity during recess is very effective. Children enjoy being a part of something and working toward a goal. The physical aspect of recess alone is important in growth and development. The social aspect of recess is also one to keep in mind. Children need to interact with their peers outside of a classroom setting. Many times, sitting for hours on end in silence can become frustrating for students. Children are even reprimanded for speaking to the person next to them during class time. They have very limited time during the day to develop social skills with one another. When they receive breaks or get the opportunity to play together is when they learn how to interact. Learning basic social skills is the foundation of a healthy and happy lifestyle. Being able to communicate daily and find commonalities can help combat bullying and raise self-esteem.

Some parents are advocating for multiple breaks during the day. Others would like to see an hour-long recess at their school, rather than 20 minutes. The interesting thing about recess is that it is normally a local decision to be made. The local school boards determine whether there will be a recess and the time allotted for one. At times, principles will take away recess from students who are misbehaving. This goes back to the shortage of recess in areas with low-test scores. It is actually the misbehaved or unfocused children who require a break the most. It is overlooked as a priority when it is actually extremely vital to a child’s participation and learning.

Parents and teachers are calling for a reform on the recess policy. They hope to have a state legislature mandate a scheduled time for a break during the school day. It may seem as though this should not be something that is mandated, but with a lot of school districts not providing recess, it is necessary. Parents are worried that their children are overloaded and overstressed. The younger aged students, particularly, need a break to release build up energy and time to express their creativity.

A few days ago a bill, pushed by moms in Florida to mandate recess, was passed. Every public elementary school in Florida is now required 20 minutes of a daily recess that could not be taken away under any circumstance. This bill passed unanimously by the House in Tallahassee is groundbreaking and extremely important in bettering the student’s education. The moms who fought for this bill to be passed are now being called “Recess Moms”. As academics become more difficult the school tends to think that there is less of a reason to provide students with a break. Schools even began cutting back on P.E., something that parents see as different from recess. P.E. is structured with more attention placed on fitness, whereas recess is a time for children to relax and engage in the activities of their choosing. When moms saw that recess was being taken away in some Florida schools, they went to the board immediately. They received little to no success by going to administration. The recess moms decided this was a bigger issue that needed to be taken to the state. These active parents have made great strives with the passing of this bill.

School boards say that at times they receive somewhere between 30 to 50 emails in a day from parents complaining that their child is not getting a break in class. Children return home to their parents moody, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do. The work in the classroom is quite a lot already, but we need not forget the pile of homework they will come back with as well. Going home at the end of the day is not enough anymore and can also be a stressful process. Thankfully, with new technology, the dismissal process has become easier and less disorganized. After a full day of learning, and for some students without a break, an easy and smooth dismissal is the one thing that they can look forward to in their day.

Overall recess can provide:

  • Better focus and learning in and out of the classroom
  • A healthier lifestyle
  • Strong social interactions
  • Safety and emotional stability
  • Less stress on teachers
  • More time for students to learn effectively

One of the most important goals of recess is to keep a child on task throughout the day and allow them to pay attention to their learning without becoming distracted. Throughout the day the front desk receives 50-100 phone calls interrupting teacher’s lesson plans and the students ability to concentrate. Just as sitting in one spot all day can lead to frustration, the constant interruptions can as well. Technology is now being used to relay messages more effectively between teachers, students, and parents. These little changes throughout the day can have a great impact on how students understand the curriculum. Fewer distractions, time for relaxation, and a way for children to interact all increase their ability to think and grow. Creating an atmosphere where a student can thrive and work to the best of their ability is the most important aspect of the school system. With recess becoming mandated and technology becoming more widely used, we can achieve these long- term goals to create a happy, healthy, and safe environment for students.

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