Remember recess: that much anticipated break filled with squeaky swings, a twirling merry-go-round circled by running children, a soundtrack of chatter and laughter, and, yes, the occasional bloody knee?
Well, there’s a lot less recess going on these days due to America’s mission to upgrade test scores. Problem is; the strategy isn’t working. While test scores are up overall since testing began in the 1990’s, the Wall Street Journal reports in 2015, they actually fell. And these lackluster results come at the expense of our kids, sitting captive, hour after hour, trying to absorb the tsunami of test-prep washing over them.
“Enough!” That’s the resounding anthem of a growing movement to unleash a comeback of recess. The arguments are powerful and profound.
First, there’s the common sense argument; kids need a break to get outside and play. That, alone, may be enough, but for those whose job involves squeezing in all the test-prep, consider this: The American Academy of Pediatrics calls recess crucial to learning. Studies demonstrated that recess resulted in more attentive and productive children in class. So, the fifteen minutes given up in classroom time, is more than repaid in higher concentration ability.
In north Texas, educators are putting recess to the test in their own schools. TCU Professor Dr. Debbie Rhea has observed the impact of play time in Finland where students score strongly in math, reading and science. Finnish students also enjoy lots of breaks to play. Dr. Rhea launched a project called Liink in which six participating Texas schools provide students two 15-minute play breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon. In other areas, parents are starting grass roots efforts of their own to bring back recess. As you can see in this CNN Report, it’s not easy, but there are success stories.
In addition to improved ability in the classroom, recess offers social, developmental and physical benefits. Kids learn lessons in teamwork, the art of negotiation, and how to overcome their fears. They move, exercise, improve coordination.
Think back on recess: hanging from monkey bars, climbing the steps of the “big” slide, making memories, making friends.
Deep down, don’t we really all want that for our kids?