Study after study has shown the importance of recess on the physical and mental health and well being of kids. Yet it seems that schools continue cutting recess for the upper grades in favor of another hour of academic excellence. If recess is so important to kids, does that importance diminish when the kids hit middle school? Does gym class give enough of a break and enough physical exercise for kids to get the benefit? The answer is a resounding no.
Please welcome guest blogger David Reeves, marketing manager of Playland Inc. He has some great points about students having recess – even at the middle school level!
P.E. and Recess Are Not the Same
One of the first arguments against recess in middle school is the presence of a structured physical education program. First, don’t forget that most elementary schools have physical education for younger kids, and still have recess. Yet at the middle school level, where academics become more rigorous, recess is regularly cut.
But recess and physical education are not the same thing. P.E. class is highly structured and kids are asked to perform specific physical activities that they may or may not enjoy. Some kids may even find it stressful if they are being graded on their performance and are not necessarily good at the particular activity.
Recess, on the other hand, gives kids a mental break from the stress of school. They have the freedom to decide what they want to do with their time. It is unstructured, unstressful and provides a needed opportunity to wind down. It also provides social interaction, which is crucial in the middle school years.
According to Dr. Robert Murray, pediatrician and professor at the Ohio State University, recess is vital. He told Time magazine that “Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges.” He also emphasized that the longer kids were held to a task, the harder that task became and the less they were able to process the information. Recess provides that cognitive and physical break.
Benefits of Recess Extend into Middle School
The benefits of recess are being heralded far and wide by pediatricians and concerned parents. Children who have recess are able to perform better and more productively in school. They have better social development when they can enjoy child-led play with their peers. Childhood obesity rates are lowered when kids get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, and recess helps with this.
Do these benefits suddenly disappear when the child enters fifth grade? Are they magically no longer at risk for obesity or no longer need social time? The answer is no. Pulling recess from middle school children means holding them back from enjoying these advantages.
Practical Opportunities to Add Recess
The problem that most middle schools face is that they are pressed for time. The school day is already longer than most kids and parents would prefer, and the teachers and administration need to cram as much learning into that time as they can, as the academic challenges at this age become more intense.
The answer may lie in simply extending the lunch period. Students can use a 40-minute lunch period as they see fit, either to eat and socialize or to spend time outdoors. Encouraging outdoor play or even requiring that some of the time be spent outside can encourage more physical activity. By giving kids the opportunity and an extended break, schools give them the chance to benefit from recess without adding too much time to the school day.
Recess matters, even in middle school. By giving kids this chance to play, schools set them up for greater success, both academically and physically, now and in the future.
About the author:
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. (http://www.playland-inc.com/) in Carrollton, GA. Playland Inc. is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier of outdoor play equipment, including bridges, climbers and age specific play structures. It has developed into the only company in its field to offer direct to all of its customers, the ability to purchase outdoor and indoor playgrounds and amenities.