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Study: More play time needed in school

Susan Notes:

Seven years ago, I wrote a book called What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?, exposing the horrors of kindergarten elimination and homework pileup around the country. I hoped parents would rise up in outrage.

It didn't happen.

You can buy a used copy of the book on Amazon for $1. Sad to say, the situation is as dire today as it was seven years ago. See second grader Sam Schmidt's plea for recess, Kids deserve a break.

It is nice to know of a New York City school that celebrates recess. One might wish, however, that it was free play rather than adult-chosen "organized games."

Isn't it amazing that our society seems unwilling to let kids to outside and play?

Here's the authors' abstract for the article, "School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior" appearing in Pediatrics, Feb 2009, Vol. 123 Issue 2, p431-436, 6p, 5 charts, 1 graph
by Romina M. Barros, Ellen J. Silver, and Ruth E. K. Stein.

OBJECTIVES. This study examines the amount of recess that children 8 to 9 years of age receive in the United States and compares the group classroom behavior of children receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.

METHODS. This is a secondary analysis of a public-use data set, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, third-grade data set. Children were categorized into 2 levels of recess exposure, that is, none/minimal break (<1 break of 15 minutes/day) or some recess. Some recess was further categorized into 5 levels on the basis of frequency and duration of recess. Child, parent, school, and classroom characteristics of those with and without recess were compared. The group classroom behavior was assessed by using the teacher's rating of class behavior.

RESULTS. Complete data were available for 10301 to 11 624 children 8 to 9 years of age. There were equal numbers of boys and girls (boys: 50.3%). Children exposed to none/minimal break (30%) were much more likely to be black, to be from families with lower incomes and lower levels of education, to live in large cities, to be from the Northeast or South, and to attend public school, compared with those with recess. Teacher's rating of classroom behavior scores were better for children with some recess than for those with none/minimal break. This finding was maintained in multivariate regression analysis. However, among children receiving daily recess, the teacher's rating of class behavior scores did not differ significantly according to the level of exposure.

CONCLUSIONS. These results indicated that, among 8- to 9-year-old children, having ⩾1 daily recess period of >15 minutes in length was associated with better teacher's rating of class behavior scores. This study suggests that school children in this age group should be provided with daily recess.

By Art McFarland

NEW YORK (WABC) -- 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 comaraderie, 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 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 Wam.

— Art McFarland


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