Recess in Schools

Ask children what their favorite part of the school day is, and most of them will say recess. Not only is this a time when they can see friends and play games, but also grow in ways that they can apply in a classroom setting. In many schools, recess is taken out of the schedule and replaced with longer class periods or other sedentary activities. This loss is proving to be detrimental to students, as research shows playing helps them focus in class, prevents bullying and develops social skills, and aids in the development of emotional learning.

As of 2016, only 8 states have laws which make recess mandatory in schools. Even among those states that do require it, there is little to no regulation or consistency among the quality of recess.

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) and Center for Disease Control have put out new guidelines for what recess should look like in schools. These guidelines include suggestions such as “Establish weather guidelines to ensure student safety,” and “Train school staff and volunteers for recess.” The guidelines also remind educators the importance of designating both outdoor and indoor spaces for recess so that poor weather will not get in the way.

The guidelines also stress the importance of faculty participation. It is not enough for faculty to put these guidelines in place, they must also be a part of the activity on a day to day basis. SHAPE encourages teacher to volunteer to monitor recess and engage with students in a new way during this time. The playground offers teachers a chance to bond with students and strengthen relationships, something which can translate into a better learning environment.

A school in North Carolina has put these guidelines in practice and seen big results. Disciplinary incidents have decreased about 50% according to principal of the school, Angela Moore. She states that  this reform was not something that happened overnight but rather, that it was “was a process. It did not just happen overnight…and it’s still a process.”

For more information on the SHAPE guidelines, please click here.


Amanda De Moraes

Boston Tutoring Services

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