Will The Real Recess Stand Up? It’s NOT Playworks, Phys. Ed., Meditating, or Brain Breaks!

By Nancy Bailey

The lack of breaks for children and the misrepresentation of what constitutes recess continues to flourish.

School reformers try unsuccessfully to replace recess. But recess is not Playworks, Phys.Ed., meditation, or Brain Breaks controlled by adults who tell children what to do, denying them the ability to learn academic and social skills that recess provides when children are free to learn.

Recess is unstructured play. It’s supervised (supervision is critical) but not controlled by adults. It’s one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to help children flourish in school, and studies have highlighted its importance.

Removing recess from the school day involved one of the terrible school reforms in the ’90s connected to high-stakes standardized tests, with the bizarre belief (see A Nation at Risk) that children need more classwork without breaks.

After a while, adults realized the severe health problems that could arise if children don’t have breaks. Still, now they focus on physical activity and need to understand the significance of the critical social interactions children learn during recess.

In some places like Florida, parents have had to fight for a recess mandate, where they are always at risk of losing even 20 minutes of recess. Fortunately, the legislature allowed 20 minutes for now!

Recess involves unstructured play. As Mr. Rogers said, Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is the work of childhood.

Conflict resolution and working out difficulties are critical parts of recess and another critical variable involving what children learn with unstructured play.

Read more here.


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