Is Recess Necessary or Just a lot of Fluff?
My son just started 7th grade, which (at our school district) marks the beginning of middle school. It also means no more recess. Granted, you may be thinking that sounds pretty normal. After all, recess has to go by the wayside sooner or later, doesn’t it? And aren’t middle-graders really getting a bit old for playtime? But this no-recess policy does not sound normal to me. You see, I went to a school that had a period of “recess” all the way through high school. Though it wasn’t called “recess” (it was actually called “academy period”) it was still a daily window of “temporary withdrawal or cessation from the usual work or activity.” (As “recess” is defined by Dictionary.com.)
During academy period, we students could attend club meetings, get a little help with homework, participate in intramural athletics, or just exercise our social skills. It was actually a very useful time period. We could all–students and teachers–take a moment to regroup, recharge, or just take a breather. I believe everyone should have the benefit of an unstructured period during the day. It is beneficial physically, developmentally, and academically.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, I am a resolute recess advocate. And it turns out I’m not alone.
Some of the many persuasive proponents for recess include:
The American Academy of Pediatrics:
Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.¹
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
School boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers can feel confident that providing recess to students on a regular basis may benefit academic behaviors, while also facilitating social development and contributing to overall physical activity and its associated health benefits.²
The U.S. Play Coalition:
Advocates for the wellbeing of all children need to be concerned about the number of children deprived of recess. Given the strong evidence suggesting recess meets so many physical, social, emotional, and academic needs, recess for all is a goal worth pursuing.³
And of course, Maria Montessori :
[D]oes nature make a difference between work and play or occupation and rest? Watch the unending
activity of the flowing stream or the growing tree. See the breakers of the ocean, the unceasing movements of the earth, the planets, the sun, and the stars. All creation is life, movement, work.
In fact, Maria Montessori referred to “play” as the work of the child. This is because she recognized the significance of unstructured time in the child’s development. And her discoveries have been validated again and again over the last century. Perhaps it’s time for our school districts to stop and listen, because recess isn’t just nice, it’s necessary!
¹ The American Academy of Pediatrics: The Crucial Role of Recess in School, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/131/1/183.full.pdf
² U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf
³ U.S. Play Coalition, A Research-Based Case for Recess, http://www.playworks.org/sites/default/files/US-play-coalition_Research-based-case-for-recess.pdf
⁴ Dr. Maria Montessori, What You Should Know About Your Child