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What happened to recess?
Do you remember recess as a kid? Or naptime? Or gym class? If so, you’re having memories that countless children won’t in upcoming years.
An astonishing forty percent of elementary schools in the United States have now cut recess altogether. Fifty percent have cut gym.
How did this happen?
The No Child Left Behind Act gives children tests to prove they have acquired the basic math and reading skills appropriate to their grade level. With such a rigid standard in place, many schools are falling behind. Their solution is to increase class time, at the expense of free time and physical activity, which would actually improve learning itself.
As adults, we make much the same assumptions on a daily basis: that the more hours we put in, the more value we’ll produce. The ethic of more, bigger, faster has permeated not only our boardrooms, our hospitals, and even philanthropic organizations. It has now seeped into our kindergartens.
The qualities that set human beings apart from all the other species – empathy, creativity, self-control – are the ones that are cultivated in the quieter moments, and get lost when we don’t have time to rest and recover. By taking this time away from kids at such a young age, we are developing a new generation that is narrower in their thinking, more superficial, and less capable of reflection or intimacy.
A recent study of 11,000 children demonstrated that just 15 minutes of recess significantly increases academic performance. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 2/3 of the almost 2000 elementary school principles surveyed nationwide believe that students listen better and are more focused after recess.
When kids come into kindergarten, they have spent little to no time learning how to focus their attention. The idea that we then ask them to sit down and concentrate for hours upon hours is ludicrous. The ability to focus is a muscle, and it must be developed in the same systematic way that we lift weights at the gym – through intense effort balanced by rest.
In order to truly develop our brains, we need to learn from an early age how to cultivate absorbed focus, and how to truly renew and recharge. Otherwise, kids are in a constant state of semi-attention, trying to grasp what the teacher’s saying while at the same time drumming fingers on their desk, leaning back in their chairs, and daydreaming about the next game of kickball.
Do you know what the policy is in your children’s school? If not, try asking them how much time they spent outside the classroom or doing physical activity during the day today. If you don’t feel it’s enough, try talking to your administration. Nothing will change until we all take a stand.
Playworks is a wonderful organization fighting hard to change the tide on recess and physical activity in schools. Check out their website for information on what they’re doing to bring play back into schools.
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Eliminating recess and gym, in an era when the typical lifestyle is sedentary and obesity is more widespread than it's ever been. Ouch. Lynn The Kaizen Plan www.smallstepstobigchange.com
@ 2011/03/04 03:01:39 PM
Thanks for this blog about recess and the link to Playworks! Playtime and breaks during the school day help kids focus and re-energize in the classroom. We, at Playworks, are working hard to make recess a valued part of every school day.
by Beth Kimberly
@ 2011/02/28 02:36:48 PM