Who Killed Recess? The Movement to Resuscitate Recess
The Benefits of Recess
While recess may not seem to have many benefits to daily studies on the surface, research into the matter seems to prove otherwise. On their website, the Florida Department of Health cites numerous benefits of recess, which impact the students' physical, emotional, cognitive and social health and wellbeing. Some of the physical benefits of recess include:
- More time spent in active play
- Proper growth and development from physical activity
- Helps children maintain a health weight, reducing the risk of some diseases later in life
- Improves bone mass and density, lowering the risk of fractures throughout life
There are also cognitive and social benefits of recess time, which include:
- Better focus in the classroom
- Increased academic achievement
- Provides time for self-directed play and cultivates imagination
- Development of social skills with peers
- Understanding of how behaviors affect their playtime
Children who spend more times playing outdoors even experience emotional benefits from the habit, including:
- Less stress and reduced anxiety
- Improved self-esteem and self-worth
- Offers time to play out real scenarios for a better understanding of them
- Allows children who need time to themselves that necessary break
In addition, regular recess time builds health habits in children because it encourages a lifestyle that reduces the risks of some types of diseases through fun physical activity. The report from the Florida Department of Health also makes the point that teachers and other working adults have breaks scheduled into their work days. If adults recognize the need for breaks, why do some schools not see the same need for their students?
Recess Before Lunch
- Children consume more nutrients and waste less food
- Children can eat at a more leisurely pace
- Children behave better at school throughout the day
- Students perform better in the classroom, thanks to their improved nutritional intake
- Students return to the classroom better prepared to tackle their studies
Despite these research findings, many schools still schedule recess after a short lunchtime, leaving students to wolf down their food in the interest of getting outdoors sooner. In some schools, the short lunch is all there is, and recess doesn't even come into the equation.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times that she supports bringing recess back into the schools in Chicago by moving teachers' lunch times from the end of the day to the middle of the schedule.
Recess for the Rich, but Not the Poor?
Another interesting study reported by USA Today a few short years ago suggests that students coming from wealthier households are more likely to have recess in schools. The study found that first-graders in the wealthiest schools got an average of 31.8 minutes of recess every day. On the other hand, students in the poorest schools only enjoyed 21 minutes of daily play outdoors. This gap appears to be consistent with grades throughout elementary school.
However, recess becomes even more significant to students who come from poverty-stricken, crime-rich areas. A 2008 Chicago Sun-Times series found that outdoor play is more important for students who come from these types of areas, since parents may be afraid to let their children play outdoors at home.