Recess from Intelligence

posted by Bill Edwards - 

It's no secret that our public education system has been failing our students for some 40 years or more.  We were once either number one or two in the world in education and now we're way down the list and according to a 2015 (the latest I could find) Pew Research Center survey that U. S. students' academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries.  We're somewhere in the middle of the pack in science, math, and reading scores of 15-year-olds taking the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  But where do we stand in spending for education?  We're far-and-away number one in that category.  Out of 71 countries we were a very unimpressive 38th (!) in math and 24th in science. Furthermore, the survey said, "Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U. S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science.  

More time in the classroom and less time for recess was suppose to fix this.  Less physical education classes--if any at all--and less time for recess, and fewer and fewer assembly classes when educational speakers are invited in unless, of course, they are talking about "climate change," "recycling," or something along those lines.  The Savannah-Chatham County Pubic School System (SCCPSS) is now going through a debate on who should control recess--the school board or the individual principals and teachers at each school.  I wasn't even sure if we even had recess anymore but when I found out it was a whopping ten minutes it was all I could do to keep from blowing a gasket.  If this weren't so serious it would be comical.  Ten minutes for recess?  That's hardly enough time to change classes, much less work up a sweat on the playground.  

How important is recess?  The standard answer we used to have when I was in school when someone asked our favorite subject was, "recess."  But the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked into the literature examining the global benefits of recess for a child's cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being has recently been reviewed.  The study showed "physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal, and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits."  Furthermore the study stated what seems like the obvious common-sense conclusion: "recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks.  It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize." 

What's just as important is what happens after recess: "...for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively."  Then there's the the icing on the cake for the younger kids: "In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment."  In other words, kids get to interact personally rather than via social media.  They burn off energy and calories to help with their physical well-being so they may be less likely to act up in the classroom.  Most best-selling authors I've interviewed over the years have told me their best cure for "writer's block" was to get up and go do something else.  It could be as simple as watching TV or having a snack, going to a movie or even going to bed and "sleeping" on it.  The breaks are necessary and when it comes to school recess those breaks need to be at least 30 minutes, not TEN.  

And just as an aside, it should be up to the individual schools to administer their recess access not the school board.  What do you think?  

Bill Edwards

Bill Edwards

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