Recess or Academics? Why Choose!

Contributed by JC Boushh

Since 1990, 40 percent of the nation’s 16,000 school districts have either modified, deleted, or are considering deleting recess from the daily elementary school schedule due to increased pressure from numerous sources to improve achievement. (American Association for the Child’s Right to Play, 2000)As schools, administrators, and teachers feel the ever-growing pressure to meet academic test scores and No Child Left Behind many see eliminating recess and increasing classroom time as a viable choice. But is there actually any research indicating that eliminating recess actually helps students does better academically? According to Skrupskelis (2000) the phenomenon of reducing time for recess has no credible research to back it up, and is actually counterproductive to increasing the academic achievement of students. In actuality recess plays a vital role in children’s cognitive functions.

· Rossi and Nimmons (1991) point out that twenty minute mental breaks throughout the day enhanced productivity. The brain performs poorly when attempting constant intense attention, and is capable of ten minutes or less of continuous focus on external stimuli.

· Research by Brink (1995) suggests that capacity to master new information and recall past information is enhanced by biological and chemical changes in the brain caused by exercise

· The CDC (1997), reports that regular physical activity is associated with higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of anxiety in adolescence.

Schools should not be forced to have to choose between academics and recess, but instead understand that each plays a vital role in children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. Recess and academics are inseparable in relationship to raising healthy and smart children. Saving recess is a cause that every parent, teacher, and administrator should rally behind.