Study looks at positive effects of recess

February 4, 2010 3:05:53 PM PST
Kids will tell you how great recess is. Now, principals are chiming in.In a first-of-its-kind study, recess is shown to help students focus while in the classroom.

At MS 131 in Chinatown, recess is one of the most important parts of the day.

"You get a time to do anything you want, instead of schoolwork," student Helen Zhen said.

Even the kids know what a Gallop poll has found, that allowing them to play for a while is part of their education.

"It's fun and you get to do whatever you want," student Oscar Chen said. "It helps you calm down from doing work in the morning."

"We found that many schools are cutting back on recess in order to use that time to meet testing requirements," said Dr. Jane Lowe, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But most school leaders apparently value recess. According to the poll of principals across the nation, four out of five say recess has a positive impact on academic achievement. Two-thirds say students have improved listening and focus after recess, and 96 percent believe recess has a positive impact of children's social development.

"After a hard day of work, you get to finally run around, have some fun with your friends and mingle," student Maria Gonzalez said.

Principals in every part of the country agree that this kind of physical activity is not only good for kids, but helps them in class. And at MS 131, administrators say if not for recess, the afternoons would be a challenge.

"And anytime when you have a 'not out' lunch and kids don't go outside, it makes the afternoon very difficult," assistant principal Johnathan Levin said. "The kids have trouble settling down. The kids have trouble concentrating on their school."

The poll also found that a number of schools use recess as a punishment, denying it to kids who misbehave, which experts say is a mistake.

"But what these findings would indicate is that recess actually should not be used as punishment, but really needs to be rethought, because the results of recess are so positive on student learning," Dr. Lowe said.

The report recommends at least 30 minutes a day of recess.