The Importance of Recess

Posted on The Elementary Educator - Written by blogger Mark Pullen a third grade teacher from Michigan.

Amid all of the current pressures to get students to achieve on standardized tests, school administrators in some districts around the United States have created extra academic time for their students by getting rid of something that they feel no longer is useful: recess.

“There’s too much to do,” says Rosemary Agneessens, principal of Creighton Elementary School in Phoenix, where morning and afternoon recesses for even the littlest kids were eliminated two years ago.

The same sentiment was put even more bluntly by Benjamin O. Canada, superintendent of schools in Atlanta, when he told The New York Times, “We are intent on improving academic performance. You don’t do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars.”

Or do you?

Stewart Trost, assistant professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University, asserts, ”Kids who have recess display an improved ability to stay on task, are less fidgety in the classroom and are better behaved…movement is essential to the physical and social development of all children.”

Echoing those sentiments is Olga Jarrett, a child development specialist from Georgia State University: “An experimental study found that fourth-graders were more on-task, less fidgety and less disruptive in the classroom on days when they had recess, with hyperactive children among those who benefited the most. Breaks are helpful, both for attention and for classroom management and discipline.”

Ask any teacher after a rainy day where the students had to stay inside, and I guarantee you’ll get the same response: recess matters. In a country where nearly 20% of our children are obese, 4.4 million children are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and after-school time for children is frequently hyper-structured, does anyone who’s worked with kids really think that banning recess is a good idea?

Get the children outside. And while they’re there, maybe we adults should try it as well. Maybe it would clear our minds so we would quit trying to implement such horrible ideas on our children.