Do Kids Need Recess?

Do Kids Need Recess?

What are your memories of recess?

What did you do during that time? Looking back, do you think it was all just fun and games or do you think it was important to your learning and development?

Would you go so far as to say that recess should be a required part of the learning day?

In “States Consider Longer School Recess, and the Adults Aren’t Complaining,” Laura M. Holson writes:

Four years ago, Lucy Dathan moved to New Canaan, Conn., where she enrolled her three children in public elementary school. They met new classmates. Their teachers were attentive. But something was amiss: Recess was limited to a 20-minute break after lunch, or about half the time as at their previous school, in California.

Ms. Dathan said a shift in her children’s mood was palpable. They found it difficult to focus on homework. They were restless and sometimes cranky after school, which she attributed to pent-up energy. With so little time for schoolyard play, she worried they were losing the ability to navigate personal relationships. “It was hard for them to adjust to only one recess,” she said in an interview.

So Ms. Dathan, who was elected to the Connecticut legislature in November, agreed to support a state bill that would require schools to provide at least 50 minutes of daily undirected play for students enrolled in preschool through fifth grade. “I haven’t had one person ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’” she said of parents, students and teachers who have contacted her. “I think playtime fosters the creativity that we need to solve crazy world problems, like global warming, or other issues we need to face as a planet.”

Ms. Dathan is not alone in her observation. Last April, Arizona legislators passed a law that provided two daily recesses for the state’s elementary school students. Teachers have already seen encouraging results, reporting fewer disciplinary actions, enhanced test scores and improvement in children’s overall health. And just last week, youngsters from Arkansas, where a similar move is also being considered, sent letters to state legislators asking they be given a longer recess break.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— Do children need recess? Why?

— How important was recess to your schooling? How did you spend that time? Are there any important skills and life lessons you learned or developed through recess?

— Do you still have recess? Is recess just for elementary school students, or do you think students in middle school or even high school should have some form of recess or unstructured time?

— The article quotes Robert Bilder, a clinical neuropsychologist:

“What is valuable for children is freedom where they are solving problems with no predictable answer,” he said. “When it is open-ended, they retain the curiosity to learn more things. And that is going to be essential for their futures.”

Do you agree? Do you think there is a connection between daily undirected play and creativity? Do you think recess can help children develop curiosity, creativity and problem-solving?

— Should all states and school districts require recess? Why, or why not?

— What is the ideal amount of time for recess? How much would be too much? Are there potential downsides to mandating recess?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.