How many of you have children in schools where recess is withheld as punishment -- or as a way to catch up on school- or homework?
Last week I came across an article written by a superintendent in South Dakota. It was called "Recess Restriction Is a Useful Tool that Shall Remain in the Toolbox." (I'd send you there, but if you want to see an article that's more than 7 days old in The Daily Republic, you have to pay for it!) And as you can tell from the title, this guy is in favor of withholding recess when teachers felt it was necessary. He feels it's one of the few resources teachers have when it comes to managing the children, and he made it clear that he believes it works.
I could feel my hair get whiter as I read it! It was another one of those times when I wondered why we have so much excellent research if no one is going to pay attention to it -- particularly the people who should be paying attention, like educators and educational administrators?!
The research is quite clear on the benefits of recess. Studies as far back as 1885 and 1901 and up to the present have shown that individuals (but especially children) produce more when their efforts are distributed (breaks are included) than when concentrated (work is conducted in longer periods). Moreover, Dr. Olga Jarrett and her colleagues conducted a study that determined 15 minutes of recess resulted in the children being 5% more on-task and 9% less fidgety, which translated into 20 minutes saved during the day.
Hello. Is anybody listening?
Even if we didn't have a childhood obesity crisis on our hands (and we most certainly do), recess and the outdoor light would be essential to children's academic success. And since that's so obviously what matters most in our society, it's truly unbelievable that this particular research is being ignored -- or, at the very least, unheeded.
And here's another pertinent bit of information: Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that the same children tend to miss all or part of recess every day. Translation: The threat of missing recess is an ineffective "tool in the toolbox."
On Thursday I'll be interviewing the CEO of the National PTA for Body, Mind and Child. I'll be talking to her specifically about the PTA's support of recess and PE and want to explore the issue of what happens when parents and teachers don't see eye to eye (e.g., when parents want their children to have recess no matter what and teachers disagree). If there are questions you'd like me to ask -- or if you just want to contribute your thoughts to this conversation -- post your comments here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.