If you ask a child what their favorite part of the school day is, they’ll probably tell you recess. “Recess is the time of day set aside for elementary school students to take a break from their class work, engage in play with their peers, and take part in independent, unstructured activities,” Bossenmeyer, M. (2005). A trend is happening throughout the United States and in my opinion; it’s not a good one.
Recess is being cut and/or eliminated from school schedules. Why does this matter? Children are able to interact outside in ways different than in the classroom. Should recess remain a part of the child’s school day?
Recess provides children with discretionary time and opportunities to engage in physical activity that helps to develop healthy bodies and enjoyment of movement. It also allows elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in situations that are real. Furthermore, it may facilitate improved attention and focus on learning in the academic program. (Council on Physical Education for Children, 2001)
I believe a national crisis will be reality in the lives of young children if we eliminate recess from schools. “Over forty percent of our nation’s schools have either reduced or banned, or are considering to ban recess in order to maximize amount of time spent in the classroom,” (Bazaliaki, N., Cox, D., Long, T., Risteen, J., Sparks, K., & Jonas Ward, J.) Why are schools doing this when recess has been apart of the educational system for so long? There is a tremendous amount of academic pressure on teachers and schools to create successful, high-achieving students.
A recent Forbes article stated that “because a mechanism in the Common Core discussion often ties teachers’ pay and job status to the results of student performance on those tests, many schools have taken the block of time regularly carved-out for recess and put it towards classroom time to teach the test.” (Igel, 2015). Some believe that recess “wastes time that would be better spent on academics” (Johnson, 1998). Another reason why schools may be interested in banning recess is liticaphobia, the fear of being sued. An article published on Education World this month stated that “a recent Harris Interactive survey revealed that 82 percent of teachers and 77 percent of principals say the current legal climate has changed the way they work. More than 60 percent of principals surveyed said they had been threatened with a legal challenge.” (Hopkins, 2015). If a child is injured on the playground, the school may face a lawsuit. Administrators cite a “fear of lawsuits if children become injured, a concern over children's safety from strangers around school grounds, and a shortage of people to supervise the children during recess” (Johnson, 1998). Some MN schools are taking another approach- hiring recess consultants. It was reported in this article that $30,000 was paid by the district for one semester of this pilot project!
Many schools are cutting recess from elementary schools, although the number of children who are obese is on the rise. “New elementary schools in Atlanta, Georgia have even been built without playgrounds” (Fisher, 2005). Schools without playgrounds? This is both ridiculous and sad! Children need to be children and having time to play is part of that process. Removing recess will not assist in raising test scores! Children are not going to be able to concentrate or retain information if they are not allowed time to relax and clear the mind (and burn off energy!)
Research shows the many benefits of physical activity (cognitive, physical, social, emotional) within the school day. Just do a simple search through Google Scholar using the phrase “benefits of physical activity in elementary school.” Clearly, recess and physical activity is vital in elementary education (I’d argue for all humans at every age). Why are we still having this discussion?
Bazaliaki, N., Cox, D., Long, T., Risteen, J., Sparks, K., & Jonas Ward, J. No recess? No way: Take back your time. [Online]. Available: http://www.simpleliving.net/timeday/pdf/recess_ban_paper.pdf
Bossenmeyer, M. (2005). Eliminate Recess? Let's Skip It! Retrieved online from http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/press8.htm July 30, 2005.
Council on Physical Education for Children. (2001). Recess in elementary schools: A position paper from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education [Online]. Available: http://www.aahperd.org/naspe/pdf_files/pos_papers/current_res.pdf.
Fisher, L. (2005). Recess Cuts: A Growing Trend in the United States. Retrieved online from http://www.finetuning.com/articles/p0-1316-recess-cuts-a-growing-trend-in-the-united-states.html. July 30, 2005.
Hopkins, Gary. (2015). Has the Threat of Lawsuits Changed Our Schools? Education World:. Education World. Retrieved online from http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin371.shtml. Dec. 09, 2015.
Igel, Lee. (2015). The Common Core Is Taking Away Kids' Recess--And That Makes No Sense. Forbes. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved online from http://www.forbes.com/sites/leeigel/2015/01/15/the-common-core-is-taking-away-kids-recess-and-that-makes-no-sense/. Dec. 09, 2015.
Johnson, J.E. (1998). Playland Revisited. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 11(1).
Liticaphobia. (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. (2002). Retrieved December 9 2015 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/liticaphobia
National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2001). Recess and the importance of play: A Position Statement on Young Children and Recess. Retrieved online from http://naecs.crc.uiuc.edu/position/recessplay.html July 30, 2005.
Sindelar, R. (2004). Recess: Is It Needed in the 21st Century? The Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. Retrieved online from http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/index.html July 30, 2005.
Unknown. No-Recess Policies Being Implemented in U.S. School Districts. Retrieved online from http://library.adoption.com/Education/No-Recess-Policies-Being-Implemented-in-US-School-Districts/article/3811/1.html July 30, 2005.
Blog photo taken by Esti Alvarez, 2010. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)