Study: More play time needed in school

June 15, 2009 9:52:12 AM PDT
All kids need to get outside and play; it's an important part of childhood development. Yet many kids don't hit the playground, especially when in school. Now, a new study shows recess is just as important as learning math or science, but many schools don't make it a part of a student's day. At P.S. 63 on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the students aren't just enjoying recess, they're taking part in a "recess enhancement program."

"It really builds relationships, it brings children together," principal Darlene Despeignes said. "And it really builds a sense of camaraderie, sportsmanship and teamwork."

The recess period includes organized games, administered by the recreation center Asphalt Green.

"We don't do much about winners or losers, we kind of do cooperative, all-inclusive stuff so they can have a good experience for that 20 minutes that they get," said Mike Truffa, the program's coordinator.

Students like Brandon Guzman say it's a lot of fun.

"We have lots of exercise, we can play with our friends and mostly all we have fun," said Brandon.

Not every school has such organized recess activities. But a detailed study headed by Dr. Romina Barros, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has found a growing number of schools have no recess at all. She's a developmental pediatrician and says that can have a negative effect on students at those schools.

"We found that 30 percent of our children, national-wide, are not getting recess," said Dr. Romina Barros. "We also found that from 30 percent of kids, three quarters of them don't have physical education at all in the school."

The study says school overcrowding is part of the reason. At some schools, the yards have been taken over by classroom trailers. Another factor--more time for test preparation was taking away from playground time.

"The educational system needs to learn that they are kids and they need to be kids and, through play, they learn a lot," said Dr. Barros.

And recess also has other benefits.

"We've had a decrease in incidents of aggression," said principal Despeignes.

"When we're waiting for lunch time and recess, we're really dull during class, and then, now we're really happy," said student Michelle Wan.

Web produced by Maura Sweeney