Refocus with Recess

31 March 2017

Play Hard, Achieve Greater!

Recess provides our children with a much-needed break during their day, yet as the CDC reports, only eight states require school recess, and many states do not provide nearly enough. Unfortunately, with increasing academic demands and pressures during a limited school day, recess often gets reduced or eliminated. Principal Kim Summers of Betty Jane Elementary School in Akron, Ohio did just the opposite, expanding recess from 15 to 20 minutes a day. As Summers tells NPR, “At first impulse, with everything that’s coming at the schools and when we schedule things we think, 'Oh, we need to cut back on the recess time so we can do more of our academic time.' But in reality that becomes a detriment because they need the free time to do better academically. That’s what we see and that’s the feedback we get from teachers as well.”

In South Hampton Roads, schools currently provide a combination of physical education classes and recess each week. Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, a new Virginia law will require at least 20 minutes of physical activity daily for students from kindergarten through fifth grade, for an average of 100 minutes per week. While a step in the right direction, the law allows for recess to be counted towards this weekly physical activity requirement, which goes against recently released recommendations from the CDC and SHAPE America. The new guidelines recommend schools provide a minimum of 20 minutes of recess each day in addition to physical education classes. The guidelines also encourage schools to (1) ensure adequate space, facilities, and supervision for recess, (2) offer recess before lunch, and (3) prohibit excluding a student from recess for disciplinary purposes.

As the CDC reports, recess has numerous benefits for students beyond providing them with physical exercise. Recess helps students improve memory, attention, and concentration, which allows them to stay on-task in the classroom. Recess reduces disruptive behavior, and improves social and emotional development. The Y believes active play is critical to a child’s overall development and academic achievement. That’s why every after-school program provides a minimum of 30 minutes of active play each day. Children engage in SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids), group games, and play outdoors as much as possible.

Alexis, a Y Hero's story

For Alexis, playing and learning in the Y’s after-school and youth development programs have helped her develop self-control and strong socio-emotional behaviors. Alexis attends the after-school program at the Currituck Family YMCA in Currituck, NC while her mom, a single-parent in law enforcement, works to provide for her family. Alexis has often struggled with staying on task and controlling her behavior. With time to play, help with her homework and strong mentors, the Y provides Alexis with a nurturing place for her to explore new things, make friends and build strong character values that help her learn, grow, and thrive.

Check out more about Alexis and how the Y has positively impacted her life.