Is Recess Necessary?

With budgetary cuts decimating school programming and staffs, coupled with American students lagging globally in math and science, every aspect of the school day is being called into question as part of an effort to revitalize the less-than-stellar US school system. One such debate centers around the question of whether recess is necessary or should be eliminated. Would students benefit from additional classroom time, or would they suffer if deprived of this short break from lessons?

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Is school recess necessary? The AAP says it is.

Both sides of the argument are vocal about their standings.

Those who believe in the value of recess cite research showing that breaks in the school day cause children to behave better in class, presumably because they need a break in concentration in order to focus and absorb new information. Other research has found that recess accounts for the majority of total daily physical activity for 42 percent of US children – an important factor in the fight against rising childhood obesity rates.

Additionally, many people believe that recess teaches kids – especially young ones – valuable life lessons. According to education advocate and author Susan Ohanian, children learn during recess how to:

“get along, negotiate, make and follow each other’s rules, talk to one another, and fall down and get back up again.”

Proponents of cutting recess argue that it takes away from valuable classroom learning, disrupting a teacher’s lesson and the students’ focus at a time when many students across the nation are testing below their grade level. Additionally, they cite a lack of structure and supervision in most recess settings that allows for bullying and fighting,  causing negativity to spill over from the schoolyard to the classroom. This group believes that children’s exercise requirements can be met during gym class and in after-school sports.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls recess a “necessary break from the demands of school.” Their recently released policy statement entitled “The Crucial Role of Recess in School” supports the call for recess to be supervised and goes on to say that it,

“offers children cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. It should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute, and whether it’s spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play or activity.”

What do you think – is recess necessary, or should it be cut? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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