The future, a concept inconceivable to some but fully embraced by others, is something everyone desires to be faultless. In order to create a prosperous society in the future, it is first necessary to assure that those living in the society are well-rounded. How do we do this? We begin with children who are bursting with potential. Recess is the key ingredient for creating the model student, in addition to establishing the fundamentals for crafting the model adult later in life. Public school administrators, who offer recess to their students, also offer an opportunity for physical and mental success.
It is evident that due to the economic decline adults have been reducing their time spent at home and increasing their time spent at work. Because they are not at home, adults are unable to supervise or encourage their children to play outside. The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine conducted a survey which Greg Seaman summarized: “In interviews with almost 9,000 parents, researchers discovered that only 51 percent of children went outside to walk or play once a day with either parent” (Seaman, n.d.). Therefore, children are locked indoors, protected by the safety of sedentary walls. While at home, children succumb to static activities such as watching television or playing video games. Because they lack the opportunity to venture outside, children ought to have access to other sources of exercise and creativity. Children essentially have two homes, one which consists of the nuclear family, and the other including classmates and teachers. If one’s home is incapable of fulfilling the needs of the child, the other should pick up the slack. In order to affirm such goals, school administrators must provide recess for each child.
As simple and innocent as recess is, administrators seem to have difficulty wrapping their minds around the necessity of this play time. Due to this ignorance, playground equipment is diminishing and has even become extinct in some schools. Many argue that equipment is too expensive and requires costly repairs. However, Adams, author of Recess Makes Kids Smarter, explains that blacktop can be painted for less than $5,000 with different games and activities that foster creativity and more importantly, activity in general. Children do not need fancy toys or a 10 foot spiral slide. What they need, is time to run outside and to invent games of their own. Exercising the body and mind is vital medicine for their susceptible state of life. In The Value of School Recess and Outdoor Play, the author plays devil’s advocate, claiming that recess “is a waste of time better spent on academics, that playground injuries promote lawsuits, [and] that children are at an increased risk of coming in contact with threatening strangers while outdoors.” An occasional injury may occur on the playground, but has the question been asked, how many children would suffer from mental and physical injuries over time, if recess were eliminated? The answer: every student would experience some sort of grievance. As recess time and equipment are stripped away, obesity and lack of attention creep closer into the lives of once exuberant children.
When play is placed on the sidelines, so are academics and physical fitness. The sequence of events is tumultuous. Down time is essential even in the workforce: breaks are enforced in order to increase productivity. If adults, who have lengthy attention spans and a fully matured brain, require breaks, it is imperative that developing children have time to relax their mind and are able to freely express themselves. Williams, author of Recess in Schools: Disposable or Essential? confirms that recess “has shown to be extremely beneficial for children with special needs and diagnosed attention deficit disorders.” By releasing large amounts of their energy outside of the classroom, students are able to cease fidgeting and disruptions, leaving them clear minded with the capability to focus on school work. Long days are accompanied by stress. Hours of constant cramming and overwhelming standards set by the community can be strenuous at such a young age. It has been proven that high stress levels during childhood can result in depression later in life. Students fortunate enough to partake in recess exhibit the opposite of these detrimental results.
Children who have yet to be robbed of recess, exhibit such characteristics: “are less fidgety and more on task, have improved memory and more focused attention, develop more brain connections, learn negotiation skills, exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts, [and] are more physically active before and after school” (Adams, n.d.).
These admirable traits describe the model student. However, school administrators who outlaw recess are ultimately crippling their students and setting them up for failure.
Stationary lifestyles have grown increasingly more common as the use of technology has been implemented into daily life. Technological advancements have resulted in children occupying a substantial part of their day surfing the internet or watching television: “Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years” (Williams n.d.). This startling truth is something that those in power agree needs to be changed. However, few seem to act seriously upon this threat to the health of the future generations. Many claim that students have the opportunity to venture outside after school hours. However, “studies have shown that students who are more active during school hours are more likely to stay active after school hours than students who have no physical activities” (Williams n.d.). By eliminating recess, stationary habits are promoted and more likely to be practiced by the youth. If this trend continues, it is highly likely that these children will encounter complications in health such as: type two diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and several types of cancer once they reach adulthood. It is evident that mental and physical health is impaired once recess is abandoned, and some school administrators enable these poor lifestyle choices.
School is highly valued because of its sole effort is to promote education that students can eventually utilize in the career world. When entering adulthood and searching for an occupation, it is necessary to have: communication, imagination, cooperation and socialization skills in order to be hired. However, if school administrators exterminate recess, they are not only robbing children of their physical capabilities, but their aptitude for creative and intuitive thinking along with their communal skills. During recess, children freely interact with others and invent their own unstructured games. These games along with pretend play develop skills necessary for the future. Business owners seek non-conformers, those who can add an edge of competition and fresh-thinking to the company. In addition, business owners look to hire those who work well with others. It is difficult to develop teamwork in a classroom that consists solely of structured lecture time, deprived of any individuality. Carlee Adams, author of Recess Makes Kids Smarter interviewed Nelly Torres, a parent of a first and a fourth grader in the Chicago Public Schools. Torres commented that recess “taught me how to get along with others- whites, African-Americans. Nowadays, kids don’t know how to socialize among other groups.” Torres’s comment revolves around observations of her own children and is a common, yet troubling opinion. Recess requires collaboration, whether it is assigning roles in a game of hide-and-go-seek, or taking turns on the swings. Recess fosters originality and socialization-skills, which are assets highly valued in the business world.
Many, but not all public school administrators have acknowledged the numerous repercussions (previously discussed) of eliminating recess. In order to cope with the faulty schedule, some schools have introduced: short exercise breaks, a longer school schedule, or have hired recess coaches. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to combat childhood obesity cooperates with public schools; it promotes the importance of short exercise breaks during the day, and the priority of physical activity, including recess.
Goodwin, author of After Years of Recess Erosion, Schools try to get Kids Moving Again, explains how a public school in New York has been inspired by “Let’s Move!”; “Geller [teacher at PS166] cobbled together $5,000 in grants from New York City’s education department and other sources to institute regular two minute physical activity bursts every morning, which the school calls “brain breaks.” Teachers are also trying to add another 15 minutes of other exercise, particularly Tai Chi movements, as a way to compensate for the school’s infrequent recess, which leaves some of the children restless and antsy.”
Geller’s effort to relinquish play time for children, demonstrates that not everyone is neglecting childhood fitness. Brain breaks and Tai Chi may not be the ideal recess; however, any activity is better than remaining stationary.
In addition to Michelle Obama’s and Geller’s support, the National Wildlife Federation has launched their “Ranger Rick Restores Recess Campaign.” Burnette, author of Bring Daily Recess Back, informs her audience that “National Wildlife Federation will be advocating the return of daily recess to our nation’s schools by working with state legislatures and state boards of education to implement policies that ensure recess for elementary students. This initiative is an integral part of NWF’s goal to get 10 million more kids outside over the next three years” (Burnette, 2013).
The NWF recognizes and condones the importance of recess; therefore, is striving to restore childhood creativity and fitness. In order to achieve success, the NWF has outlined a few goals: each student, not excluding those with poor grades nor behavioral issues, will receive at least 20 minutes per day of recess; recess will be scheduled in addition to, not in replacement of lunch and physical education periods; recess equipment must be safe and outdoor; and students must have access to a natural play area. These requirements assure that every child- rich, poor, black, white, misbehaved, or well-behaved, has the opportunity to put aside their differences and explore the great outdoors together.
Some public school administrators, who value time spent outside, have begun to extend the school day in order to accommodate recess time. For instance, a low-income public school in South Lawrence, Massachusetts guarantees that their “students get two hours of physical activity each day, including a 20 minute recess, to break up their 80 minute blocks of academic classes. But in order to fit in all the exercise, the school has had to expand to an eight-hour day” (Goodwin, 2013). This compromise meets children’s academic and physical requirements. One of the school founders, Thomas Bean, has reported that attendance and academic performance have recovered impeccably since the alteration of their schedule. Children look forward to having a daily recess, which staggers the long periods of classroom time. By having breaks throughout the day, students also renew their focus upon returning to the classroom.
Chicago public schools are now following this trend of reinstalling recess. Lengthening the day allows room for playtime. Every Chicago public school allots at least twenty minutes of recess for the students. However, time is not the only aspect necessary for a quality recess. Equipment and staff are essential. Many Chicago public schools no longer have any recess equipment and are lacking staff members to monitor break times. In order to combat this deficiency, recess is sometimes held in the school parking lot or at a local park. Jump ropes, balls, hula-hoops, etc. are supplied in order to occupy children. Gutierrez, member of Channel 7 ABC News, covers the story, Recess returns to Chicago Public Schools. She addresses the staff shortages by interviewing a “Recess Coach.” Coach Easter explained: “We introduce games, teach them the rules to all the games, but also we teach them how to interact with each other” (2011). These coaches are hired in order to ensure students’ safety, dissuade idleness, and to mediate quarrels. Exercise breaks, extending the school day, and hiring recess coaches are the first few incentives to revive the fruits that recess once bore.
The endeavors to achieving daily recess in every public school have not full affect. In order to obtain a brighter future for the younger generations, it is vital, that children develop the skills that recess foster. Such skills entail: creativity, communication, leadership, love of nature, physical fitness, and a healthy attention span. As a member of society, it is our responsibility to guarantee the future is in good hands. These hands must be those of past students who have sported calluses from monkey bars, and whose finger nails were once embedded with sand. An online article, Bring Back Recess, highlights simple measures anyone can take to help the cause of brining recess back. Being informed and dedicated is the first step. The second step is getting other parents involved. The article advices the reader to: “Contact the head of your PTA or other parents association.” Team work is necessary to tackle this problem. Third, by talking to administrators and shining a light on the benefits of recess, those in power will feel motivated to take action. Lastly, alerting the media can promote widespread knowledge on the issue at hand. In times of trouble, competent communities will reunite and address the situation, no matter how cumbersome, until it is resolved. By following these steps, school administrators will feel the pressure to reincorporate daily recess.
Recess is the time when children are allowed to be what their name and reputation entail- free-spirited. However, this reputation is slowly becoming a misguided and misrepresented shadow of the past. Children have moved onto a more cliché and predictable lifestyle- one that is unhealthy for their present state and their future. Devoid of recess, a hollow human being is produced, crafted from long classroom hours and a stationary home life. “Ignoring the developmental functions of unstructured outdoor play denies children the opportunity to expand their imaginations beyond the constraints of the classroom” (Education.com, n.d.). Because children are incapable of developing ingenuity at such a vital state in life, it is impossible for them to utilize creativity as adults. The youth have adopted the belief that life is sedentary. Therefore, they too have grown inactive. In order to spark the youthful vitality that once ran rampant throughout students, all school administrators must reinstall and enforce an allotted time for recess during the school day.
Adams, C. (n.d.). Recess Makes Kids Smarter | Scholastic.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/recess-makes-kids-smarter
Bring back recess. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://www.playworks.org/make-recess-count/resources/time-restore-recess
Burnette, M. (2013, January 29). Bring daily recess back. National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://www.nwf.org/news-and-magazines/media-center/news-by-topic/get-outside/2013/01-29-13-bring-daily-recess-back.aspx
Education.com (n.d.). The Value of School Recess and Outdoor Play. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Value_School_Recess/
Goodwin, L. (2013, March 22). After years of recess erosion, schools try to get kids moving again. [Web log message]. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/years-recess-erosion-schools-try-kids-moving-again-085309920.html
Gutierrez, T. (Member of News Team). (2011). Recess returns to chicago public schools [Television series episode]. In ABC News. Chicago: WLS-TV/DT. Retrieved April 20, 2013 from, http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=8407058
Seaman, G. (n.d.). Are Children Spending Enough Time Outdoors? | Eartheasy Blog. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://eartheasy.com/blog/2012/04/are-children-spending-enough-time-outdoors/
Williams, S. (n.d.). Recess in schools: Disposable or essential?. Informally published manuscript, Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://www.ecu.edu/cs-lib/reference/instruction/upload/Third-Place-Paper.pdf