Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, TX, recently took a risk. It went from giving one recess per day to its kindergarten and first grade classes, to four recesses per day. (That’s two 15-minute breaks outside in the morning, and two in the afternoon.) This drastic change had surprisingly good results.
Many schools take away recess time as a form of punishment for kids, but this particular school took a chance and gave their students more opportunities to run around and play. The result? Children are more focused, less fidgety, and more creative when they are in the classroom.
At first teachers were worried about losing the classroom time and being able to cover all the material they needed with what was left, but now that the experiment has been going on for about five months, teachers say the kids are actually learning more because they’re better able to focus in class and pay attention without fidgeting.
Children need to move and play. It’s unnatural for them (or anyone for that matter) to sit at a desk for hours on end. Recently there has been a lot of focus on the need for adults to get up and move at least once an hour throughout the day. Why should it be any different for kids?
But now [teacher Donna McBride] says that not only are the students paying better attention in class, they’re following directions better, attempting to learn more independently and solve problems on their own, and there have been fewer disciplinary issues.
“We’re seeing really good results,” she said, and those results make sense. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that recess is “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.” Even adults have a hard time concentrating and working their best when confined to a chair all day, so it’s amazing that we expect kids to be able to focus and learn without any way to exercise and blow off steam.
We need other schools around the country to make recess a priority and not an afterthought. Our children need it. Consider raising this issue with the school board in your own town. Clearly the results are worth it.