Parents in Florida and Tennessee and many other states have fought for recess. Sometimes children in elementary school get 20-minute breaks once a day if they’re lucky. Children should get several recess breaks each day!
We should be looking at the benefit of school recess breaks for every grade level. Middle and high school students would benefit from recess too.
I have written about recess as a main topic in about twenty posts on this blog. I mention recess repeatedly. I have read other blog posts about the need for recess. There’s much research about the importance of recess for children. Usually the research shows that children do better in school with recess!
In 2002, Susan Ohanian wrote a book about recess called What Happened to Recess and Why are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? With a book like this, one would think Americans would have realized the importance of recess breaks for their children.
Anthony D. Pellegrini wrote Recess: Its Role in Education and Development in 2005.
I wrote a section about the importance of recess in the chapter “What Happened to Early Childhood” in Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Children in 2013.
In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a policy paper “The Crucial Role of Recess in School.” When doctors tell the country that unstructured play is important for socialization and to avoid obesity you’d think people would listen.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp just refused to sign a bill to give children an average of 30 minutes of unstructured play. He claims he doesn’t want to take the power away from local school boards to make their own decisions about recess.
This is understandable. It’s strange that recess would need to be mandated.
But are local school boards insisting that schools have recess? How many schools in Georgia and around the country still deny children recess breaks?
Time and again, we still hear about the need for children to have recess. Some parents report children get structured P.E., which is not recess. Or outside nonprofits or for-profits come into a school and provide structured activities which is not recess either.
Some places still deny children recess altogether! They claim academics don’t permit time for recess. They might let students stand up and wiggle about for a few minutes. That’s not recess!
Why any state would need to mandate recess seems bizarre. But if local school boards still don’t provide recess, claiming academic achievement is too important for breaks, how will parents get them to change?
Susan Ohanian begins her book talking about movie makers’ restrictions ensuring that animals get adequate breaks. Her comments about the treatment of apes is especially interesting. Apes in movies get plenty of breaks. The American Humane Association (not related to the Humane Society of America) protects them.
Yet, while many parents fight for the right for their children to have recess, most places have no powerful “humane” organization to insist that children get unstructured play several times a day!
I checked the rules for primates in the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Films to see what Susan was talking about, because this has always been such a stunning parallel. Here it is:
When primates are to be used in productions for two or more consecutive days, care must be taken to ensure adequate rest. Animal handlers must know each animal’s capabilities for dealing with workloads. The work schedule must allow for regular breaks from training and filming throughout the day, and breaks and rest schedules must be agreed upon by American Humane Association. p.115.
These primates have an American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representative.
Maybe parents in school districts that still deny children recess, need to connect with the American Humane Association to ensure that children always get several recess breaks a day!
Susan states, “Obviously, what America’s schoolchildren need is a Childhood Humane Association, an association to make sure they are given equal protection with apes.”
We all know the benefits of recess. It’s time for every school district to do the right thing.
Susan Ohanian. What Happened to Recess and Why are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), pp.1-2.
Anthony D. Pellegrini. Recess: Its Role in Education and Development. (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2005).
Nancy E. Bailey. Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students. (Lanham: Rowman& Littlefield Education, 2013), pp. 18-22.
“No Animals Were Harmed.” Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Films. American Humane Association. humanehollywood.org 2015.