Now Reading: The Crucial Role of Recess in School

This is the first of two posts on the science (this post), and the experience (the second post), of recess.

A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk.

This is an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement published in the January, 2013 issue of Pediatrics that summarizes the data and makes the recommendation that recess should not be taken away for “punitive or academic reasons.”

Sadly, it appears this is happening. From the USA Today article covering the policy statement:

In a 2010 Gallup Survey of 1,951 principals and other school officials, 77% reported eliminating recess as a punishment; one in five reported cutting recess time to meet testing requirements.

As the data is reviewed in the policy statement, taking recess away as punishment or to improve academic performance may have the opposite intended affect – reduced attentiveness to learn, reduced acquisition of important life skills, including the kinds of skills that might prevent punishment in the first place (cooperation, negotiation, self control).

What to do: Playworks

Playworks is a national nonprofit organization that transforms schools by providing play and physical activity at recess and throughout the school day. Through our on-site direct service and trainer-led professional development workshops, Playworks restores valuable teaching time, reduces bullying, increases physical activity and improves the school and learning environment.

The model and positive evaluation results of the Playworks (@playworks) program (by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (@RWJF)) is discussed in Teaching conflict resolution, one playground at a time – Peter Goldmark. Hint: They found that it works.

I am happy to say that Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit supports Playworks across the United States. And that’s how I went from reading to playing myself, with esteemed colleagues, at the Center for Total Health (@kptotalhealth). That story and my thoughts are in this next post: Now Playing: The Crucial Role of Recess

I have to mention just one thing that impressed me in the AAP statement, which is that in Japan, primary school-aged children have a 10-15 minute break every hour. On the one hand, the ways that would have changed my own school experience I have yet to fathom. On the other hand, I probably took that break, and then some in my head, every day.

Click here to continue on to “Now Playing: The Crucial Role of Recess“, of course feel free to leave comments about the statement or your own school experience, past or present

Ted Eytan, MD