The pressure on schools to find more instructional time has led many institutions to take those minutes from time previously set aside for recess. The downward trend for recess time doesn’t just stop there though. Research has found that schools located in urban and high-poverty zones often get no recess at all.
The Center on Education Policy (CEP) tracks the effects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy on schooling. In 2007, it surveyed the impact of NCLB on instructional and recess time. It discovered that twenty percent of all school districts nationwide decreased time spent for recess. In another survey, this one from the National Center for Educational Statistics data, 173 randomly selected school districts reported decreases of 32.3%.
The Co-Founder of the learning toy company Click-A-Brick Jason Smith laments the reduction of recess time. “The threat to recess is very personal,” Smith said. “For starters, the idea of recess is tied into our own memories of the schoolyard and of childhood itself. It’s part of what made going to school so fun. As a parent, I don’t want my child to miss out on that. I think school should be fun. Children should associate learning with fun. It’s the concept of what we built our company on.”
However, the statistics hide an even more disturbing trend. Some schools have slashed recess altogether or reduced it to just a few minutes per day. The CEP’s research found that fourteen percent of urban elementary schools do not offer recess to first graders. The recess gap persists all the way up to the sixth grade: 24 percent of sixth graders in high-minority schools, 28 percent in high-poverty schools, and 24 percent in urban schools do not get recess. This is compared to 13 percent of sixth graders overall across the country.
Research suggests a positive relationship between more opportunities for physical activity and better student learning. Brain research on attention suggests that breaks are needed as the brain cannot maintain attention for long periods of time. Contrast is required to regain focus, such as a new location or novel stimuli, and for information to be processed, down time is needed to recycle chemicals crucial for long-term memory formation.
Georg de Gorostiza, Co-Founder of Click-A-Brick objects to the reduction in recess time. “It’s pretty simple, having children plug away at schoolwork with no rest will just produce diminishing returns,” de Gorostiza said. “These are children we’re talking about. Kids need to get moving. Sitting in classrooms all day is not the way to help them learn. Our kids deserve the best we can give them. Give them a break. Literally. It’s their time to play, their time to let their imagination run wild. We’ve designed our toy lines around these very same concepts.”
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