Why We Need to Rethink Recess

  • Posted October 17, 2019
  • By Jill Anderson


Sociologist Rebecca London knows that recess is an afterthought at many schools. Too often, it's just "a blank space in the middle of the day," she says, or a way to get some physical exercise for kids. She thinks it's time that educators rethink how to use that time to better support young students. In this episode of the Harvard EdCast, London shares ideas from her new book, Rethinking Recess , how to create a more inclusive recess, and why taking away recess — especially as punishment — is a bad idea for kids.

Rebecca London

Jill Anderson: I am Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast. Rebecca London is a sociologist who studies recess. She knows recess is an afterthought in many schools day. Too often, it's just seen as a break or a way to get some physical exercise for kids. She wants to see us rethink how to use that time to better support young students. In recent years, there's been news about states mandating recess. So I asked her what the current state of recess is across the country.

Rebecca London: Well, recess is a really interesting space in the school day because it's a time when there could be a lot of academic and social and emotional physical growth happening, but there isn't necessarily all that happening. It's often a blank space in the middle of the day. It's a break. And so people think, "Well, I don't have to pay attention to it." But really, what we know is you do have to pay attention to it because it's a time when children can experience a lot of growth. It's also a time when they can experience boredom or bullying. It can result in disciplinary incidents that go to the principal's office. So generally, I'm interested in those kinds of spaces in children's lives, where it's this confluence of developmental opportunities with some attention to them can be a really amazing time to build all kinds of developmental skills.

Jill Anderson: We've been hearing a lot about recess around the country and in different ways. And can you provide like a snapshot of what elementary school recess looks like across America today?

Rebecca London: So elementary school recess is actually not available everywhere across the US today. We know that in urban schools and schools serving low-income populations and schools serving predominantly children of color, there isn't always recess. Sometimes the children don't get any time to run outside in the unstructured opportunity for play after their lunch or before their lunch. And even when they do, it's often less time than their peers in other schools get. In some schools, they've really paid attention to what happens during that time. And there's activities, there's equipment, there are caring adults who are helping the children or connecting with them. And in other schools, there hasn't been that attention to recess.

And so sometimes there's a little bit of equipment, sometimes not, and then sometimes there's opportunities for activities and games, sometimes not. Children are often left up to their own devices to figure out what to do with that time. Sometimes the adults are really caring and providing support and maybe turning a jump rope or refereeing a soccer game or a basketball game and sometimes not. Sometimes they're looking at their phones or connecting with their friends and not engaging with children. So right now, I would say we're in a place where we're paying a lot of attention to recess. There's actually a fair amount of state legislation happening. The CDC has guidelines out on what a healthy recess should look like. The American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines out on what a healthy recess should look like. This is our moment to capitalize on all of that and just scheduling the minutes in the day isn't enough to ensure that children are experiencing a safe and healthy and inclusive recess.

Jill Anderson: We know play is good for kids, and that has been proven time and time again. But at the same time, it's interesting how we focus so much on improving all these aspects of education, but it seems like we've ignored recess a little bit.

Rebecca London: Well, and while we haven't ignored recess, we're focusing on it as an opportunity for physical activity. That's how states are framing it in their legislation. It's an opportunity to get those 60 crucial minutes per day of physical activity that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. But what's really interesting is play is the way that children learn. We know that from very young age on play is how they learn. So right now, for instance, a lot of schools are using curriculum on social and emotional learning, SEL, that's very big right now. And this curriculum is offered in classrooms with classroom teachers.

But the chance for children to practice those skills, to think about self-regulation, what am I going to do if I lose this game? To think about collaboration and sharing, to think about conflict resolution, how am I going to resolve a conflict? The ball is in, the ball is out. Their chance to practice these skills, the only unstructured time during the school day is recess. And so if we're not offering them an opportunity with meaningful engagement in play amd in an inclusive safe environment to practice these skills, these curricula aren't going to have the opportunity to take hold in the same way.

Jill Anderson: So in your research, you talk about organized recess and high-quality recess. So what is high-quality, organized recess look like?

Rebecca London: So there's this debate in the literature about structured versus unstructured play. So structured play is more like a physical education class. There's an adult who's leading a class, all the kids are participating in the same activity. They don't really have any choice. Unstructured play is we're putting you out there on the play yard. Maybe there's equipment, maybe there's not. And kids have free reign to design whatever games and activities they want to play. And some schools I think that works well. And the schools that I've been to, low-income urban schools around the country, there needs to be something of a hybrid. So organized recess is an opportunity for there to be a lot of free choice, different kinds of games available, but organized in a way so that everybody has a chance to play, everybody can be included, and everyone has a chance to have fun.

So the ways that schools can do that are first of all to identify the games that kids like to play, they want to be playing, and find a place on their play yard outside or inside if it's going to be an indoor recess where those games can happen in separate spaces so that there's not jump rope running through the basketball game, there's not soccer tag games running through the soccer game. So every game has its own space. And then the second step is to identify a set of common rules to the games so that children they know how to play, they understand when they're out or when they're in. We don't have to spend a lot of time arguing about whether that rule is part of the game or not part of the game. We all are operating under the same set of rules.

One of the schools that I visited was trying to do this, establishing a common set of rules with the game four square. I don't know if you're familiar with four square. There is markings for four different squares on the ground and then kids play with the ball and they bounce the ball from square to square. There's four people standing in the square. And there's a million different ways to play this game. There's different rules. They can double bounce, they can single bounce. Sometimes at this particular school, the person who was in the King spot or the Queen spot, the number one spot got to make the rules for the rest of the game. So the rule changed every single time a kid rotated into that spot. And the child in charge always made the rules to their best advantage. And so if you weren't a kid who could play by those rules, you never got a chance to play.

And so the school decided, you know what? We're not going to have that anymore. We're going to allow anybody to play. We're going to establish a common set of rules and that's how it's going to go. And there was a rebellion at the school. Those kids, the parents especially, you're ruining recess for my kids. And so the school decided to try a hybrid and they said, "Okay, we'll keep one four square court with the old school rules, and we'll have another four square court with the new school rules, and we'll see which one the students like better." Well, by the end of the school year, everybody liked the new court rules, the new school rules better because they were fair, everybody had a chance to play and the old school rules kind of dwindled. So it took a little while to get used to having this common set of rules for the game. But after a little while, the kids got to see how beneficial that was for them and then they had more of an opportunity to play.

Okay, so the organized recess is about finding spots for the games and coming up with a common set of rules for the games. And then the next piece is about what the adults are doing. And it's about adults supporting children's play at recess. So know not all adults who are out there monitoring recess want to throw on their tennis shoes and run around and play basketball with kids and that's fine. But they could help kids to resolve conflicts when they arise as they do when children play. There's always going to be a conflict, is the ball in, is the ball out? Help them to resolve those conflicts. They can be a positive supporter of play. They can cheer for kids, they can remind them to play fair, they can remind them to pass the ball, they can do inactive ways of supporting play, like turning a jump rope. I've seen a lot of adults standing on play yards, turning jump ropes and getting to know the kids that way.

So it's about positive engagement, pro-social engagement with the children, not just being there to make sure that they're safe and yelling at them if they're running on the blacktop as they're not supposed to do in most schools, but to really be a positive supportive of play. Get to know the kids that way. Those are the three key ways to organize recess. In the book, I talk about a lot of different steps, other ways that you can centralize the equipment disbursement, and that's a role that kids can actually play at their own recess so that teachers aren't responsible for monitoring equipment, equipment doesn't get lost as much. If there's a centralized checkout available, then students have an opportunity for leadership if they're the ones who are running that checkout. So there's a lot of other things that go into it as well.

Jill Anderson: Right, do you see organized recess affecting school climate at other times of the day like when the kids are not in recess?

Rebecca London: Well, that's what we hear and there was a randomized controlled trial done on this. By organizing recess, what we find is that children are more engaged. And when they're more engaged in play, there's less opportunity for all of the negative things that can come out of recess. So one of the things that we hear from teachers is that after recess, that time when they go to pick their students up after they've had recess is their most stressful time of day because they know that their students are going to come back into the classroom feeling unsatisfied and potentially upset about what happened during their recess time if they felt excluded or they had an argument with someone or their game didn't go the way they wanted it to or it never really even got started.

And so by having an increased level of engagement in play at recess, teachers tell us students are coming back feeling much more satisfied, much more ready to learn. They can settle their classes in a much shorter period of time, whereas it might have taken them 8 or 9 minutes, 10 minutes to settle their classes down after recess. Before organized recess came in, after, it might take them just a minute or two to get their kids... get them a drink of water and get them settled and ready to learn. So they're actually gaining time in their classroom learning by having an organized recess. And that affects their stress levels. So we know school climate is not just about children, but it's about how adults are feeling in their school. And if everyone's feeling a little bit less stressed, there's not a line out the principal's door for disciplinary incidents that refer from recess. Teachers aren't spending as much time resolving conflicts from their students outside of recess. That does build school climate definitely.

Jill Anderson: I thought it was so interesting some of the information about discipline and particularly how often teachers will withhold recess as an activity. Can you talk a little bit more about why that isn't a good idea?

Rebecca London: Withholding recess either because students haven't behaved appropriately or because they're missing schoolwork is a very common practice in elementary schools. And when I talked to teachers about it, they tell me that it's really the thing that kids care about the most. And so they use it as a way of getting kids to behave and finish up their work. The problem is that by withholding recess, not only are you withholding a break, and we know that breaks are important, even adults take breaks. Everybody takes breaks. You need a moment to reset and recharge, and that's an important part of the school day. But beyond that, it's often the same children who have recess withheld over and over again.

What we hear is that it's not just a random kid every day, but it's often the same children who have behavioral problems day after day and have recess withheld. And what we know about that is that when we're removing children from an important developmental setting as recess is, because it helps them to build those social and emotional skills, those skills that they need for self regulation and conflict resolution and cooperation and sharing, by withholding that opportunity to practice those skills, we're actually holding children back. And especially for withholding that opportunity day after day after day, what we're teaching children is that they don't belong. They don't belong at recess, they don't belong with their peers. In the book, I talk about this as a step ladder into the school to prison pipeline. When you tell children from a very early age that they don't belong, they begin to believe that about themselves, and then they begin to act as if they don't belong.

Jill Anderson: What would be a better way to handle a situation like that? I mean, for teachers, they're looking forward to that break themselves to send kids to recess.

Rebecca London: Yeah, it's often when they take their lunch. So they have to have that break. There's a lot of different ways to incentivize children to behave and do their work. One is to incentivize with recess. So instead of saying, "I'm going to withhold this recess that you already have scheduled," say, "If you all get your work done and you're all behaving well, you can have an additional recess. I'll take you out for 10 more minutes."

Jill Anderson: Oh, yeah.

Rebecca London: So to use recess, but as an incentive as opposed to as a punishment, there's all kinds of ideas about how to get students to behave in class and how to make reparations for the misbehaviors so they can write a letter, an apology letter, instead of having the recess withheld. They can be incentivized by getting to choose the book that we read that day, or there's a lot of different ways that you can turn behavior around positively. And you know what's interesting is that states are beginning to legislate this. By my count, there are at least nine states right now that do not allow recess to be withheld...

Jill Anderson: Interesting.

Rebecca London:  ... as a punishment or for missed schoolwork.

Jill Anderson: Do they mandate that recess has to happen because I was looking into this, there's quite a few states that do have that mandate in place, but they don't mandate necessarily a certain amount of time? Am I understanding that right?

Rebecca London: Yeah, that's right. The data that I relied on is from a survey that was conducted by the CDC with SHAPE America. SHAPE America's the physical education professional association. And they found that there were nine states that said that recess is on the books and their state regs that recess cannot be withheld for punishment or from missed schoolwork. Not all of those states mandate recess.

Rebecca London: There are currently about 12 or 13 states that require recess for... usually, it's a minimum of 20 minutes per day. And for me, I feel like 20 minutes is the absolute minimum. More would be better probably. And like in Finland, the students get 15 minutes of recess for every hour of instruction. I think we're a little bit far away from that here in the US. But if there could be two recesses in the day, maybe one in the morning and one at lunch, or one at lunch and one in the afternoon depending on the bell schedule to allow students just to have that time to take a break and reset, what we know from the research is that this does not detract from student learning.

Jill Anderson: To change to an organized recess, is that an easy thing to do or is it hard to do? Does it require a lot of training and things to make that happen or even hiring additional people?

Rebecca London: It requires a commitment. It may not take a lot of money, but it requires a commitment on the part of somebody who has some decision-making authority. I was at one school in an East Coast urban center and it was actually the school nurse who took on recess at that school. So that person decided we really need to do something better than what we've got going on. That person wrote some grants connected with the leadership at the school and really was able to make a change in how recess went. So it doesn't have to be the principal. I've been to a lot of schools where it's the counselor, or a behavioral specialist, or even the PE teacher, or even a really committed recess monitor. Somebody who's already at recess who says, "We could be doing this better." And there are all kinds of training opportunities that are available to work with adults who are out at recess. It's not a huge change that needs to happen, but there's a lot of commitment because there's a lot of legwork that has to happen. But once it's in place, it pretty much runs itself.

Jill Anderson: For so many of us we’re familiar with old school recess, where it was just you kind of ran around and did whatever, it was very free, and I wonder if you get a lot of pushback or people just don't understand. They feel like this is imposing more restrictions on kids.

Rebecca London: And you know what I would say to that, if your school has a recess that is totally unregulated and it's going well, then great, stick with it. If that's what your students like and they can organize themselves and come up with games to play without beating each other up and without people feeling excluded and feeling bad during recess, then that's a recess that's working. But there's a lot of recesses that aren't like that, and they need some help figuring out how to make things better. I've been to school where children are engaged in physical fights on the ground where adults don't know how to encourage play, where kids are standing in line for the entire 15 minutes that they're outside waiting to go back into their class because they don't feel safe. I've been to places where it's just not working and they're looking to make a change, and this is a change that we know works.

Jill Anderson: Rebecca London is an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of the book, Rethinking Recess: Creating Safe and Inclusive Playtime for All Children in School. I'm Jill Anderson. This is the Harvard EdCast produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thanks for listening.

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Essay on Recess at School

Students are often asked to write an essay on Recess at School in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Recess at School

Importance of recess.

Recess is a crucial part of school life. It offers a break from continuous learning, allowing students to relax, refresh their minds, and socialize with friends.

Activities During Recess

During recess, students engage in various activities. They can play games, chat with friends, or eat snacks. This helps to boost their energy levels for the next class.

Recess and Learning

Recess also contributes to learning. It enhances concentration and memory, making it easier for students to absorb new information. Therefore, recess is not just fun, but also beneficial for academic performance.

250 Words Essay on Recess at School

The essence of recess.

Recess, a much-anticipated break amid the academic rigors of the school day, serves as a vital component of the educational system. It is an oasis of freedom and relaxation, providing students with an opportunity to rejuvenate their minds and bodies.

The Power of Play

Recess is not merely a break from the structured learning environment; it’s a platform for unstructured play, fostering creativity, problem-solving skills, and social competence. The playground becomes a miniature society where students can negotiate, collaborate, and navigate complex social interactions, thus honing their interpersonal skills.

Physical and Cognitive Benefits

The physical activity during recess helps in maintaining fitness, reducing stress, and enhancing cognitive functioning. It serves as a conduit for the application of classroom learning to real-life scenarios. For instance, a student learning about gravity might better understand the concept while playing on a swing or a slide.

The Mental Health Angle

In today’s fast-paced, high-pressure academic environment, recess serves as a critical stress-buster. It aids in alleviating anxiety and depression, thereby contributing to improved mental health and overall well-being.

Recess as a Right, Not a Privilege

Despite the myriad benefits, recess is often perceived as a privilege, subject to revocation for disciplinary reasons. However, considering its significance in holistic development, it’s essential to view recess as an inherent right, not a reward or punishment tool.

In conclusion, recess plays a pivotal role in fostering a balanced educational environment. It’s an integral part of the school day, promoting physical health, cognitive growth, and emotional well-being. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure its preservation and effective utilization in the school system.

500 Words Essay on Recess at School

The concept of recess at school.

Recess, a term that evokes nostalgic memories of childhood, holds a crucial place in the educational system. It is not merely a break from the rigorous academic schedule, but a period that provides students with a platform for holistic development.

The Multifaceted Role of Recess

Recess plays a multifaceted role in a student’s life. It serves as a mental break, allowing students to relax and rejuvenate, thereby increasing productivity and attentiveness in subsequent classes. Furthermore, it promotes social interaction among students, fostering the development of interpersonal skills. Students learn to communicate, negotiate, collaborate, and resolve conflicts, which are critical life skills.

Recess and Physical Health

The significance of recess extends to physical health as well. In an age of increasing screen time and sedentary lifestyles, recess provides an opportunity for physical activity. It encourages students to play, run, and engage in sports, thereby promoting physical fitness and combating obesity. Moreover, exposure to natural sunlight during outdoor play helps in vitamin D synthesis, crucial for bone health.

Recess as a Platform for Informal Learning

Recess also serves as a platform for informal learning. It is during this period that students explore their interests and hobbies. They engage in various activities like drawing, painting, music, and dance, fostering creativity and artistic skills. Additionally, the unstructured nature of recess allows students to learn through play, promoting experiential learning.

Recess and Emotional Well-being

The role of recess in promoting emotional well-being cannot be understated. It provides students with a respite from academic pressures, helping reduce stress and anxiety. The freedom to play, laugh, and interact with peers contributes to happiness and positivity, enhancing overall mental health.

Recess: A Right, Not a Privilege

Despite the numerous benefits, recess is often viewed as a dispensable part of the school day. Many schools, under the pressure of academic achievement, are reducing or eliminating recess. However, it is important to understand that recess is a right, not a privilege. It is an integral part of the educational system, contributing to the holistic development of students.

In conclusion, recess is not merely a break from academics but a vital component of education. It plays a pivotal role in fostering physical health, social skills, informal learning, and emotional well-being. Therefore, schools should recognize its importance and ensure adequate provision for recess in the daily schedule. It is high time we moved beyond the traditional view of education and embraced a holistic approach, recognizing the role of recess in shaping well-rounded individuals.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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The Importance of Recess: Why Schools Need More Playtime

By Ashley Brooks on 06/20/2018

The Importance of Recess: Why Schools Need More Playtime

Your kids run and jump alongside you as you walk them home from the bus stop after another successful day of school. “What was your favorite part of the day today?” you ask. Both the kids shout, “Recess!”

You’re hardly surprised at their answer. You remember recess fondly from your own elementary school days. Jumping rope, swinging from the monkey bars, playing kickball and simply enjoying the outdoors was the highlight of your school day, too. But many children today aren’t given the opportunity to explore the full joys of recess.

School districts across the United States are cutting recess to make more time for structured classroom learning. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. What’s wrong with giving kids more time to learn? But cutting recess and playtime may actually do more harm than good. Worse yet, only eight states currently require recess , which has some parents and educators worried that recess could disappear completely.

Don’t underestimate the importance of recess in your classroom. Read on to find out why play is vital to learning and what you can do to keep recess and playtime a part of your early childhood program.

The decline of recess

Recess time has been in decline for many children—in fact, one 2007 George Washington University study found that 20 percent of schools have reduced recess time. 1 So why would school districts across the country begin taking away recess time? The likely driving force behind these cuts to children’s unstructured playtime is rooted in U.S. educational policy.

America’s education policy

The rapid decrease in recess began the same year the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed. The law aimed to make America’s education system more internationally competitive by introducing achievement goals for schools, gauged by standardized tests in reading and math. If schools missed their achievement goals, they could be subject to a series of penalties, including loss of funding.

Fast-forward to 2011 when states began reviewing and adopting the Common Core State Standards . The goal was to standardize student achievement in math, literacy and language arts—and it bases student achievement on a series of mandatory tests. Much like the NCLB, Common Core relies on standardized test scores to gauge student performance—and those scores can influence school funding.

Teaching to the test

Between NCLBA and Common Core, it’s no surprise that teachers have felt the pressure to make sure students perform well on standardized tests. When educators are facing pay cuts, loss of funding to their school and perhaps even the loss of their jobs, it’s no wonder they started questioning if recess was a waste of time.

This pressure to cram even more learning into the school day is especially felt by underperforming, low-income schools that are already strapped for funding. The students in these schools are often so far below grade-level standards that the achievement bar set by Common Core feels unattainably high, and the gap between high-performing and underperforming schools hasn’t shrunk. While clearly nationwide educational standards are a well-intentioned idea, the implementation of these policies has left a lot to be desired—and the loss of recess time in favor of study time has become an unintended consequence.

The hidden benefits of recess

It may seem counterintuitive to send kids out to play when they’re falling below state standards, but recess advocates argue that getting outside for unstructured play may be more beneficial than keeping kids in the classroom all day.

“When schools choose to cut recess, they should consider the benefits they are cutting also and evaluate if the reasons for cutting recess outweigh these benefits,” says Marie Conti, head of The Wetherill School and member of the American Montessori Society board of directors. These are just some of the benefits that highlight the importance of recess.

Physical activity may improve brain function

“Freedom to move, run and play, especially outdoors, has a tremendous impact on children’s abilities to focus and control themselves throughout the day,” Conti says. Maria Montessori , a pioneer of early childhood education, believed that “the mind cannot be educated without using the body,” Conti adds. “She viewed learning as an integration of thinking and moving.”

This isn’t just the belief of an influential educator—research has shown positive links between people who exercise regularly and their cognitive ability. Even if no such research existed, common sense makes a compelling case—would you feel mentally fresh sitting for hours learning a subject?

Recess promotes social skills

“Recess time gives more opportunity for socialization, teamwork and practice with conflict-resolution skills,” Conti says. Asking other kids to play, explaining the rules of a complex game and hashing out disputes are all important life lessons that kids can only learn if they’re given time to play.

Recess also offers the chance for children to strengthen their leadership and negotiation skills, and it can prevent bullying . Kids love playing—and when a conflict arises, it pushes children to practice these vital social skills so they can get back to having fun.

Recess fights childhood obesity

About one in five school-aged children has excess body fat, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) . 2 The CDC also recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but that’s tough to achieve if kids are sitting in a classroom for six to seven hours with no break for movement.

A healthy and active lifestyle is a routine that needs practice and reinforcement to make into a lifelong habit. Recess offers kids the chance to move their bodies and get closer to their 60 minutes of physical activity, thus making it less likely that they’ll struggle with obesity.

Recess reduces stress

“Outdoor recess also gives the benefit of experiencing fresh air and sunshine, both noted for increasing overall health and mood,” Conti says. Sunlight is also a key source of vitamin D, which increases learning and productivity .

The physical activity kids take part in during recess can also reduce stress levels and allow children to feel more relaxed . In an education system that continues to place higher expectations on children to perform to a certain standard, less stress is just what the doctor ordered.

How to stand up for recess

Recess doesn’t have to go extinct. You can keep the importance of play front and center in your classroom by taking small steps to encourage recess in your school or early childhood program.

If your program doesn’t allow for a longer midday recess, Conti recommends taking smaller breaks throughout the day or teaching a lesson outside so kids can still reap the benefits of the great outdoors. You can also designate an indoor space for recess so that kids don’t have to give up their free play due to bad weather.

Make the grade

Now that you understand the importance of play, you’re prepared to defend recess and create a strong learning environment for the children in your classroom.

Recess isn’t the only way to encourage learning through taking breaks. Find out how techniques like spaced learning can positively impact your ECE classroom in our article, “ What Is Spaced Learning? Reaping the Rewards of Repetition in the ECE Classroom .”

1 George Washington University, Center on Education Policy, NCLB Year 5: Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era, [Information accessed May 21, 2018] https://www.cep-dc.org/displayDocument.cfm?DocumentID=312 2 Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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Posted in General Education

  • ECE activities
  • education trends
  • early childhood education

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Student calls for longer recess: “We act now or never!”

  • May 13, 2012
  • From the Playground
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essay on school recess

Young advocate in the making gives three great reasons to lengthen school recess in persuasive essay.

We all support daily recess, but it takes changemakers to bring a long, healthy recess to all schools. San Francisco fourth grader DJ Chinn may just be one of those changemakers. A youth leader already, he wrote his persuasive essay assignment on extending recess minutes. Please read and follow his lead!

Recess   It is essential that recess is longer. If not, students won’t be able to focus in class, get enough exercise to be healthy, or interact with other kids and make friends. Therefore, recess must be longer.   If students have longer recess they will burn off energy and can focus more in class. Also, students need time to clear their minds and absorb what they learned. Recess gives students something to look forward to so they will work harder in class.   As you probably already know, recess is a chance to get exercise and receive Vitamin D from the sun. If students don’t get exercise they won’t be healthy.   Students need to be healthy to do well in school. Students need recess to interact with each other and make friends. If they have even longer recess they will make even more friends. If students have friends in school and in class they won’t get bored in school.   These reasons Focus, Exercise, and Student Interaction demonstrate why recess absolutely has to be longer. The time to act is now, because if we don’t act now, when? When will we make longer recess so children will be happier and healthier? Obviously, we act now or never!

We’re giving his persuasive essay an A!

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Home — Essay Samples — Education — School Curriculums — The Importance of Recess Time: A Persuasive Analysis


The Importance of Recess Time: a Persuasive Analysis

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Published: Sep 5, 2023

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Physical health and well-being, cognitive development and creativity, social skills and emotional growth, enhanced academic performance.

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essay on school recess

The New York Times

The learning network | do kids need recess.

The Learning Network - Teaching and Learning With The New York Times

Do Kids Need Recess?

Tug of war is an excellent way to release energy and aggression at recess. <a href="//parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/students-who-lose-recess-are-the-ones-who-need-it-most/">Related Article</a>

Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

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Recess is one period in the day that many students don’t want to miss. Yet with all the pressures on increasing test scores, schools have cut back on the amount of time that kids get to be kids. Plus, teachers sometimes use recess as a privilege that can be taken away if students don’t behave. Of course, children hate to lose recess — but should the rest of us worry?

Do kids need recess?

In “Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need It Most,” Jessica Lahey writes:

Despite overwhelming evidence that periods of unstructured play and social interaction are a crucial part of children’s cognitive, academic, physical and mental wellness, schools continue to take away recess privileges as a penalty for academic or behavioral transgressions. I’ve done it, many times. When students fail to hand in assignments or when a child acts up in class, I’ve taken their recess privileges hostage. I did it both as a way of punishing for bad behavior or as a way to carve out a few extra minutes of learning time in an otherwise packed day. Unfortunately, I’m not alone. According to a Gallup poll commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 77 percent of school principals report that they withhold recess as punishment, even as they simultaneously sing the praises of recess as a factor in academic, cognitive, and social development. In that same report, eight in 10 principals acknowledge that time to play has a “positive impact on achievement,” and two-thirds of principals state that “students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.” In response to this common disciplinary practice, as well as the overall declining rates and duration of recess in this country, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement, “The Crucial Role of Recess,” to set the record straight and make recommendations to schools. Their stance is unequivocal: “recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it.” In other words, schools should keep recess on the schedule, and teachers like me shouldn’t take it away.

Students: Read the entire article, then tell us …

— Do kids need recess? Why?

— Is recess just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of recess or unstructured time? Do you still have recess?

— How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during recess? Was it beneficial for you?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment below. Please use only your first name . For privacy policy reasons, we will not publish student comments that include a last name.

Comments are no longer being accepted.

Absolutely-If they don’t have recess the fact that they’re kids makes them take it anyway the first chance they get. They seem to me born with the golden rule so be nice to them they will be nice to you. I hate seeing our society laying our economic mistakes on solutions supplied by our children.

Kids absolutely need recess. Recess allows children to feel a sense of freedom that sitting in a desk inhibits. In Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, there is a stage called industry vs. inferiority. This stage occurs between the ages of 6 to 12 and is vital to a child for mastering skills and learning their strengths. While sitting in a classroom does help children learn what subjects suit them best and helps them master basic academic skills, it isn’t the only thing they need. Children also need to learn things on their own. They need an unstructured time to help them discover. I remember vividly when I figured out I could tie my own shoes. I had tried and tried but I never quite got it. All the other kids already could, but I just couldn’t seem to figure it out. I was in the second grade, and I was walking back to recess, and low and behold, my shoe was untied. I knew I had a few options, I could leave it and do my best not to trip, I could ask another kid to help and be mocked, or I could just try it and maybe this time I would get it. I opted to try it, and I remember vividly, sitting down and watching as the white laces just sort of came together. I felt like I had actually accomplished something. I was so proud of myself and when I came home I told my parents at least 1,000 times. If it weren’t for recess, it would have been at least a few more months until I learned to tie my shoe. For this reason, recess is absolutely vital to an elementary student. However this leaves out middle school, industry vs. inferiority usually ends at the beginning of middle school. Middle school marks the start of adolescence a time where kids just need to figure everything out and once again recess can seriously help out with this. Recess would allow kids to talk and make new friends, which if stopped would seriously inhibit a child’s development. A teacher would have trouble teaching every child what to do in social situations or why they like that other student and can’t stop staring at them. This is something recess can allow, it allows people to build relationships and discover themselves. Erikson calls this stage identity vs. role confusion. However for a high school playground recess isn’t going to be as effective. So a high school student can find free time in another form. Lunch is a great form of free time, it allows a student to socialize and develop themselves into the people they want to become. Not only that but a free period in the day, like an open study hall can greatly affect a student. They can take a break from school or they can work through it all. It gives the students a sense of freedom that sitting in a classroom doesn’t. In my study halls I find that if I’ve had a bad day, I’ll just give myself a break. I won’t over work myself. Or after school, some sports offer a form of freedom that isn’t seen in school. I know that for me, track and field allows me to speak with my friends who have had similar days and just recollect all that has happened that day. It’s a nice way to end my school day and it helps me feel rejuvenated enough to start my second school day, homework. No matter what age

Kids do need recess because they need a break from all the learning. Children should never be overwelmed with work. Recess help children get some freedom in school during those eight hours. They are still children and need to have the aspect in their lives. When they get home they might not be able to play because of home work. So recess gives them freedom in school. I gives them time to interact and get involved with other students. All in all this is why kids need recess.

Do kids need recess? Why? Yes, because they need to be flexible and stretching their body to grow taller, and exercising all around the playground.

Is recess just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of recess or unstructured time? Do you still have recess? Yeah, most of high schoolers think has a recess period is more childish for themselves. And no, we don’t have recess anymore because we’re in high school.

How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during recess? Was it beneficial for you? It’s important for kids and me because it can boosting their energy to studying and playing at same time. They’ll be healthy when they’re older.

A Special Letter from a high schooler: To kids, Eat well, study harder and play well, don’t forget to keep your dreams going on. 😉

I think kids need recess because it gives them time to de-stress themselves and to get the blood flowing. It wakes the students up, it gets them ready to pay attention. I don’t have recess – I only had it throughout elementary school. When I was in middle school I was more mature than most high school students are today. I say this because our school only had windows in the lobby, there were no colorful posters – no “life” to the school. It felt like I was forced into work. I should have had some form of recess. Instead I was an adult, making decisions before I reached high school. In high school, I have a lot more fun, we don’t need recess. Lunchtime is our time to relax, we have almost an hour to eat, socialize, and have fun. In the past, recess was the most exciting part of the day. It’s what I looked forward to. I played tag, kickball, soccer, basketball, jump-rope, and just walked around with my friends. Recess was relaxing but also, it woke me up; school started early in the morning. Students should still have recess in elementary and middle school. High school is the transition stage in which we prepare for life after college – adulthood.

Definitely, it is very important for kids to have recess because it allows them to interact with others or play sports that keep them active. I think recess should stop after Middle school because in high school it wouldn’t benefit the student as much. In high school you have sports, clubs, etc. that substitute in for recess. Recess was a lot of fun when I was younger. I would always play something like basketball that helped form friendships with others and just it just kept me active. I would say it was very beneficial.

Kids absolutely need recess. First off, kids shouldn’t have to be put through a whole day of learning without a break; that’s too much stress for them. Recess is when they can just have some freedom and let go for a while. Learning is already stressful in itself, and also there are children who are stressed out with school work and other things because of their parents and what not. I’ve heard people say that lunch is also another type of break, but it’s not the same as recess. Children get to just run around and have fun. Recess should be for everyone and anyone, no matter what age they are. We should all have a break during a whole day of work. I guess lunch could count as a type of unstructured time for high school students because they get to relax and eat with their peers. But during that time they sometimes have things come up during lunch, which isn’t a full break. That basically states the fact that I don’t have recess anymore. Recess was pretty important in my schooling, but my school also would take the privilege away if we did something wrong. During recess I would play with my friends; we had many activities to do. I have to say that it was very beneficial for me because at my school we would have to be quiet during lunch only because we would get really loud in the lunch room. So having recess was pretty great to have to just talk and play with my friends.

Look at it this way: You’re an adult working a standard 9-5 day job. You routinely greet your coworkers with a casual, “How’s it going?” when they respond their usual, “It’s just one of those days.” As you sign in agreement, you go on to do your work. By 11 you’re counting down till your lunch break and by 2 you’re brain is pretty much shot. Now imagine having to go through this type of day with no breaks at all. I bring this scenario up to put something in perspective; if adults need a break, what makes it any different for children? Take it from a college student studying education (and working that above job scene, unfortunately). Children at this young age NEED recess. Although it seems like just “play-time” to them and perhaps some adults, recess is a time for development. Children use this time to have social interactions, make friends and release pent-up energy. (After being shushed all day by the teacher when you have a really good story to tell about your dog doing some awesome trick, you’d be antsy to talk too). By having recess, it not only gives them the time to physically develop but socially develop as well (and as a result, I’m sure you’ll have a more focused student after the fact). By middle school, I think students should still be given a recess, but they should be given more options as what they can do with that time. For example, have some extra-curricular activities, instead of your standard, “go outside and play kickball” give the students the chance to join an arts & crafts or chess club. This can not only prevent the iconic gossip ring that usually happens around this age, but gives the student the opportunity to find things they’re interested at a time when they begin to question themselves. High School is a whole other story, that would make this already long comment into an essay. So I’ll skip it. But in general, tl;dr– recess was beneficial for me growing up. I learned a lot of things. “Kid street smarts” you might call it. You make friends and some enemies, but that’s part of growing up and being a kid. Taking that away from a student is a terrible thing, especially when there are other, more effective ways of punishment. So basically, I’m in college, and I still wish I had recess sometimes.

I think that it is absolutely necessary for students to have recess in elementary school. At a young age, students may think the work throughout the day is stressful, boring, or they just don’t want to do it. Recess is a break from all of the structured activities to have fun and play with friends. I believe recess is a part of social development because it teaches kids how to interact with others in an environment without much structure. Some sort of break should also be given in middle school and high school. In middle school I was very stressed because the teachers started to load on homework in effort to, “prepare us for high school.” If I had a break each day to collect myself, or even do a quick homework assignment, I think my middle school experience would have been much better. The honors/AP classes can be stressful for students, so I believe that it would be a good idea to have that break in higher level grade school. I do not have any type of break in high school now, but I would appreciate it if I actually did have one. I enjoyed indoor/outdoor recess in elementary school a lot. I would usually socialize with friends or get out the energy that I had bottled up all throughout the day. It was beneficial for me because I like to talk to other kids and friends about the assignments or just simply take a break to collect myself. I think recess is an imperative part of school and it is absolutely necessary for people of all grades to have some sort of unstructured break throughout the day.

Kids definitely need recess because it gives them time to lay off any boredom that they had with school which will make them pay more attention to school. Recess should only be for elementary and middle school students because in high school, your brain is smarter and doesn’t need to take relief from stress from school work with exercise as much as when you’re younger. What me and most of the boys did during recess is play football and basketball every day. This was very beneficial to me because it made me want to focus harder on my work because I knew that I would have time to play later. Recess doesn’t exist in my highschool unless you take a gym class or weight training class of some sort. I agree with the statement in this article that said, “In that same report, eight in 10 principals acknowledge that time to play has a “positive impact on achievement,” because we won’t be as bored with school and more kids are more likely to stay awake in class while they’re alert and attentive after getting their daily exercise.

I think that kids do need recess because it gives kids a chance to unwind and be kids, to let loose and be themselves with no worries. When kids start to stress over stuff they will not know what to do so I think that recess is a good thing for them to have. When i’m anxious about school stuff I just lay down or go to my grandmas and help her do some stuff that she needs me to help her with to get my mind off of it. For kids recess is great.

Kids do need recess, as it builds on their development as well as giving their brains time to relax. Being that it is proven that recess has a major positive impact on children; teachers should find alternate ways of punishing kids.

I believe everyone needs to spend at least a small portion of their day going outside and doing whatever, exercise means improved health and improved health means better students.

I think kids do need recess it gives them a time to talk and active and it builds character, physical health, and mental health. I think just elementary and middle school should have recess,and no I don’t have recess anymore. It was a really big thing to me, I played games with my friends, I think it was very beneficial for me and others.

Kids do need recess because if they do not get some relaxation time then they will be less focused on the task at hand and more focused on their plans for when they get home. Recess helps reset the brain to help improve the ability to learn, as well as get rid of a lot of stress before major tests and other such work.

kids do need recess during school i did when i was there age, its good for them to have a “free-time” to talk and play with there friends, that they might otherwise not see during the normal school day, with all the assigned lunch tables its sometimes hard to see your buddys

Kids do need recess. Recess is the time where they are free to go play outside after sitting for hours in classrooms. It’s a sense of freedom for the kids and also helps that they don’t have to feel overwhelmed by learning the whole day. It helps them with interacting with other children.

Yes- Kids Absolutely need recess because if you spend all eight hours in classes you are going to fall asleep, wonder off, or do something that’s going to make you distracted. So that’s why I think kids should have recess. Plus without recess we would die..!!!

do fish need water. of course kids need recess. obesity is a problem in america and that is one way to fix it

i think kids should have recess because it not only helps the kids stay fit but also helps release some of the energy trapped inside them and there fore easy to teach. i think there should be at least recess for the middle schools and elementary schools so they can release the energy.

Yes, Recess is a good way for kids to take a break from school to play and relax. It is a good way for them to get exercise and come back from it more concentrated. It is also a good time for teachers to work and take a brake too.

i think recess is important to kids to keep them healthy and fit. it also gives a certain sense of freedom. i feel that recess is for all students including high-schoolers.

[CATEGORY]Yes kid needs recess! Kids would feel like they are taking away the funnest part of the day, and not work as hard. Recess is for any student, regardless of the grade.

Absolutely kids need recess. I think this question is pointless I think its required for kids to have an absolute physical activity. Also I think this would help with the over weight.

Si, kids need recess because after a long day in class .The kids need fee time. It also help children me active .We have Power lunch for almost an hour. That’s our recess. Kid enjoys having recess and if they take always there free time. Kids are going not active.

What's Next

Is Recess Important for Kids or a Waste of Time? Here’s What the Research Says

E lementary school students in Florida are now guaranteed 20 minutes of recess each day — something many kids lacked before a new state law took effect during the summer.

Florida’s law and similar recent proposals in several other states are the latest examples of the running debate over the value of recess for young children. In recent years, more parents have begun fighting a trend of reduced recess time and are calling on schools to give children a chance to play .

Last year, Rhode Island enacted a similar law requiring 20 minutes of consecutive recess for elementary-school kids. The Board of Education in Atlanta, where recess was once eliminated , is now considering a rule that would prohibit teachers from withholding recess from students for disciplinary purposes, months after state lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have mandated 30 minutes of daily recess in schools across the state, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. And in Arizona, a bill that aimed to expand recess time to 50 minutes passed in the House but met opposition in the Senate this year.

Florida’s law was the culmination of a long campaign by parents in the state. One of those parents, Angela Browning, founder of Recess for All Florida Students, said her kids started coming home from school in tears a few years ago, complaining that the day had been too long and that they’d had no time to play with friends. At the time, they were getting 10 minutes of recess twice a week, she said. This year, with 20 minutes of recess each day, their response has been different.

“I cannot even begin to explain to you how much adding recess back into their day— how much of an effect that had on my kids,” she said. “When we have these young children and we can’t find time to give them a 20-minute break a day, we’ve lost our way.”

Not everyone agrees. Last year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill that would have required 20 minutes of daily recess for students across the state. “That was a stupid bill and I vetoed it,” he said at the time.

Here’s what you need to know:

The debate over recess

In the past 20 years, an increased emphasis on standardized testing as a metric for student achievement has led leaders in some states and school districts to cut into recess in favor of more in-class instruction. In 2007, the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University found that 62% of school districts had increased the amount of time spent on English language arts or math in elementary schools since 2001, while 44% of school districts had cut down on time spent on other subjects. The survey showed that 20% of school districts had reduced recess time. According to the 2016 Shape of the Nation report , just 16% of states require elementary schools to provide daily recess.

The debate over standardized testing grew with the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002 and, more recently, with the adoption of Common Core State Standards. Students today take an average of 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade, according to an analysis by the Council of the Great City Schools in 2015.

Many health and education experts argue that recess is a necessary activity for child development, and parents have begun to advocate for more recess time.

“Some devalue recess because they assume it to be — as they assume play in young children to be — a waste of time, time that could be otherwise more efficiently spent,” Anthony Pellegrini, former professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, wrote in a 2008 paper . “There is no theory or empirical evidence to support this point of view. The counter-argument, that recess is good, is backed by a large body of theory and empirical research.”

What the research says

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children participate in 60 minutes of “moderate to vigorous activity per day,” and suggested that recess be part of that. “Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development,” the AAP wrote in a 2013 policy statement . “In essence, recess should be considered a child’s personal time, and it should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”

Experts argue that physical education and recess should both be part of a child’s schedule. In 2001, the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommended that physical education classes not become a replacement for the unstructured playtime of recess.

“Quality physical education along with daily recess are necessary components of the school curriculum that enable students to develop physical competence, health-related fitness, self responsibility, and enjoyment of physical activity so that they can be physically active for a lifetime,” the groups wrote in a position paper about elementary school recess in 2001.

A 2009 study found that 8- and 9-year-old children who had at least one daily recess period of more than 15 minutes had better classroom behavior. The study also found that black students and students from low-income families were more likely to be given no recess or minimal recess. That report reinforced the results of a 1998 study , which found that when 43 fourth-grade students were given recess, they worked more or fidgeted less than when they were not given recess.

When recess is eliminated or reduced, it is often because a school is allocating more time to subjects covered on standardized tests, aiming to improve student achievement. But a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found positive associations between recess and academic performance. “There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores,” the report said.

Another study , from 2016, found that young boys who spent more time sitting and less time playing didn’t progress as quickly in reading and math.

Studies also show that recess can improve student nutrition when held before lunchtime. A 2014 study published in Preventive Medicine found that holding recess before lunch increased students’ fruit and vegetable consumption by 54%.

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The Benefits of Recess for the Whole Child

Cognitive/academic benefits, social and emotional benefits, physical benefits, safety and supervision, the emerging issue of structured recess, duration and timing of recess, conclusions, recommendations, lead authors, council on school health executive committee, 2011–2012, former executive committee member, former liaison, the crucial role of recess in school.

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COUNCIL ON SCHOOL HEALTH , Robert Murray , Catherine Ramstetter , Cynthia Devore , Mandy Allison , Richard Ancona , Stephen Barnett , Robert Gunther , Breena Welch Holmes , Jeffrey Lamont , Mark Minier , Jeffery Okamoto , Lani Wheeler , Thomas Young; The Crucial Role of Recess in School. Pediatrics January 2013; 131 (1): 183–188. 10.1542/peds.2012-2993

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Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines recess as “regularly scheduled periods within the elementary school day for unstructured physical activity and play.” 1 The literature examining the global benefits of recess for a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being has recently been reviewed. 2 Yet, recent surveys and studies have indicated a trend toward reducing recess to accommodate additional time for academic subjects in addition to its withdrawal for punitive or behavioral reasons. 3 , – 6 Furthermore, the period allotted to recess decreases as the child ages and is less abundant among children of lower socioeconomic status and in the urban setting. 4 , 7  

Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. 8 , – 11 After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. 12 , – 16 In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment. 8 , 11 , 17  

Children develop intellectual constructs and cognitive understanding through interactive, manipulative experiences. This type of exploratory experience is a feature of play in an unstructured social environment. 8 , 18 Optimal cognitive processing in a child necessitates a period of interruption after a period of concentrated instruction. 19 , 20 The benefits of these interruptions are best served by unstructured breaks rather than by merely shifting from 1 cognitive task to another to diminish stresses and distractions that interfere with cognitive processing. 9 , 11 , 15 , 20 Several studies demonstrated that recess, whether performed indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and more productive in the classroom. 11 , – 13 , 16 , 19 , 21 This finding was true even though, in many cases, the students spent much of their recess time socializing. In fact, a student’s ability to refocus cognitively was shown to be stimulated more by the break from the classroom than by the mode of activity that occurred during that break; any type of activity at recess benefited cognitive performance afterward. 14 Although specified time afforded for recess diminishes with age, the benefits of periodic breaks in the academic day to optimize cognitive processing applies equally to adolescents and to younger children.

Recess promotes social and emotional learning and development for children by offering them a time to engage in peer interactions in which they practice and role play essential social skills. 8 , 17 , 18 , 22 , 23 This type of activity, under adult supervision, extends teaching in the classroom to augment the school’s social climate. Through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control. 8 , – 11 , 15 , 17 , 22 These skills become fundamental, lifelong personal tools. Recess offers a child a necessary, socially structured means for managing stress. By adapting and adjusting to the complex school environment, children augment and extend their cognitive development in the classroom. 15 , 17  

There is a wealth of literature published on the need for and benefit of physical activity and fitness, not only for a child’s physical well-being but also for academic and social maturation. 5 , 12 , 22 , – 33 Although not all children play vigorously at recess, it does provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing and to practice movement and motor skills. Importantly, recess affords young children free activity for the sheer joy of it. 34 Even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home and helps the child achieve the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, which can help lower risk of obesity. 5 , 12 , 30 , – 35  

A child’s safety during recess is a concern for many parents, teachers, and administrators. Some schools even have chosen to ban games or activities deemed unsafe and, in some cases, to discontinue recess altogether in light of the many issues connected with child safety. 10 , 36 Although schools should ban games and activities that are unsafe, they should not discontinue recess altogether just because of concerns connected with child safety. There are measures schools can take to address these concerns and protect children while still preserving play during recess. 5 , 11 , 24 , 28 , 34 , 37 , 38 Compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Playground Safety Handbook ( http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/325.pdf ) will help to ensure proper maintenance of playground equipment that meets all of the following applicable federal guidelines:

Provision of adequate safe spaces and facilities.

Maintenance of developmentally appropriate equipment with regular inspections.

Establishment and enforcement of safety rules.

Implementation of recess curriculum in physical education classes to teach games, rules, and conflict resolution.

Establishment of a school-wide, clear policy to prevent bullying or aggressive behavior.

Provision of adequate supervision by qualified adults who can intervene in the event a child’s physical or emotional safety is in jeopardy.

Some playgrounds in areas with a high risk of violence may require additional protective measures to ensure the safety of children.

Structured recess is a recess based on structured play, during which games and physical activities are taught and led by a trained adult (teachers, school staff, or volunteers). Proponents for structured recess note that children often need help in developing games and require suggestions and encouragement to participate in physical activities. Recently, policy makers and funding organizations have called for more opportunities for daily activity as a means to address childhood obesity. These statements have strengthened the argument to maintain or reinstate recess as an integral component of the school day. 12 , 25 , 30 , 34 Although this new dimension to the recess debate has increased attention on its role, it also has created tension. Some have promoted recess time as a solution for increasing children’s physical activity and combating obesity. If recess assumes such a role, then, like physical education, it will need to be planned and directed to ensure that all children are participating in moderately vigorous physical activity. 4 , 7 , 12 , 31 , 33 , 38 Pediatric health care providers, parents, and school officials should be cognizant, however, that in designing a structured recess, they will sacrifice the notion of recess as an unstructured but supervised break that belongs to the child; that is, a time for the child to make a personal choice between sedentary, physical, creative, or social options. 2 , 8 , – 10 , 18 , 22 , – 24 , 30 , 34 , 37 , 39 However, there are many cited benefits of structured recess to consider, including 12 :

Older elementary children may benefit from game instruction and encouragement for total class inclusion.

Children can be coached to develop interpersonal skills for appropriate conflict resolution.

More children can actively participate in regular activity, irrespective of skill level.

Anecdotally, teachers have reported improved behavior and attention in the classroom after vigorous structured recess.

To be effective, structured recess requires that school personnel (or volunteers) receive adequate training so that they are able to address and encourage the diverse needs of all students. 12 , 38 One aspect of supervision should be to facilitate social relationships among children by encouraging inclusiveness in games. A problem arises when the structured activities of recess are promoted as a replacement for the child’s physical education requirement. The replacement of physical education by recess threatens students’ instruction in and acquisition of new motor skills, exploration of sports and rules, and a concept of lifelong physical fitness. 24 , 30 , 34  

There are ways to encourage a physically active recess without necessarily adding structured, planned, adult-led games, such as offering attractive, safe playground equipment to stimulate free play; establishing games/boundaries painted on the playground; or instructing children in games, such as four square or hopscotch. 37 , 38 , 40 These types of activities can range from fully structured (with the adult directing and requiring participation) to partly unstructured (with adults providing supervision and initial instruction) to fully unstructured (supervision and social guidance). In structured, partly structured, or unstructured environments, activity levels vary widely on the basis of school policy, equipment provided, encouragement, age group, gender, and race. 4 , 7 , 30 , 38 , 40 Consequently, the potential benefits of mandatory participation of all children in a purely structured recess must be weighed against the potential social and emotional trade-off of limiting acquisition of important developmental skills. Whichever style is chosen, recess should be viewed as a supplement to motor skill acquisition in physical education class. 5 , 23 , 24 , 33 , 34  

In the United States, the duration and timing of recess periods vary by age, grade, school district, and sometimes by building. 4 , 7 The majority of elementary schools that offer lunch-time recess do so after the students eat lunch. 4 , 37 , 41 , – 44 Many school wellness councils have adopted the “Recess Before Lunch” concept which stems from studies that examined food waste by students in relation to the timing of their recess. 42 , – 44 When students have recess before lunch, more time is taken for lunch and less food is wasted. In addition, teachers and researchers noted an improvement in the student behavior at meal time, which carried into the classroom in the afternoon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Agriculture support the concept of scheduling recess before lunch as part of a school’s wellness policy. 2 , 45  

Peer-reviewed research has examined the timing and type of activity during recess and chronicled the many benefits of recess for children, without establishing an optimal required duration. 2 , 8 , 12 , 13 , 18 , 19 , 21 There is consensus about the need for regularly scheduled recess based on national guidelines, even though the length of the recess period has not been firmly established. In schools, the length specified for recess ranges widely, from 20 to 60 minutes per day. 24 , 30 In other countries, such as Japan, primary school-aged children have a 10- to 15-minute break every hour, and this is thought to reflect the fact that attention spans begin to wane after 40 to 50 minutes of intense instruction. 46 On the basis of this premise, to maximize cognitive benefits, recess should be scheduled at regular intervals, providing children sufficient time to regain their focus before instruction continues.

School attendance represents a unique opportunity to address nutrition and physical fitness. Each day, 55 million US students attend school, which constitutes nearly one-half of their wakeful hours. 47 In light of rising rates of overweight and obesity, schools have come under increased scrutiny. Within the school environment, there are competing calls for stricter standards and greater academic achievement as well as calls for schools to provide greater opportunities for nonsedentary daily activity. Even with ample evidence of a whole-child benefit from recess, significant external pressures, such as standardized cognitive testing mandated by educational reforms, have led some to view recess as time that would be better spent on academics. 4 Time previously dedicated to daily activity in school, such as physical education and recess, is being reallocated to make way for additional academic instruction.

Ironically, minimizing or eliminating recess may be counterproductive to academic achievement, as a growing body of evidence suggests that recess promotes not only physical health and social development but also cognitive performance. 10 , 37 Although recess and physical education both promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, it is only supervised but unstructured recess that offers children the opportunity to actually play creatively. In this sense, then, pediatricians’ support of recess is an extension of the AAP’s policy statement supporting free play as a fundamental component of a child’s normal growth and development. 16 On the basis of an abundance of scientific studies, withholding recess for punitive or academic reasons would seem to be counterproductive to the intended outcomes and may have unintended consequences in relation to a child’s acquisition of important life skills.

In their role as child health experts, the pediatricians of the AAP stress the following perspective to parents, teachers, school administrators, and policy makers:

Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. In essence, recess should be considered a child’s personal time, and it should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.

Cognitive processing and academic performance depend on regular breaks from concentrated classroom work. This applies equally to adolescents and to younger children. To be effective, the frequency and duration of breaks should be sufficient to allow the student to mentally decompress.

Recess is a complement to, but not a replacement for, physical education. Physical education is an academic discipline. Whereas both have the potential to promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, only recess (particularly unstructured recess) provides the creative, social, and emotional benefits of play.

Recess can serve as a counterbalance to sedentary time and contribute to the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by AAP policy as a means to lessen risk of overweight.

Whether structured or unstructured, recess should be safe and well supervised. Although schools should ban games and activities that are unsafe, they should not discontinue recess altogether just because of concerns connected with child safety. Environmental conditions, well-maintained playground equipment, and well-trained supervisors are the critical components of safe recess.

Peer interactions during recess are a unique complement to the classroom. The lifelong skills acquired for communication, negotiation, cooperation, sharing, problem solving, and coping are not only foundations for healthy development but also fundamental measures of the school experience.

Robert Murray, MD

Catherine Ramstetter, PhD

Cynthia Devore, MD, Chairperson

Mandy Allison, MD, MSPH

Richard Ancona, MD

Stephen Barnett, MD

Robert Gunther, MD, MPH

Breena Welch Holmes, MD

Jeffrey Lamont, MD

Mark Minier, MD

Jeffery Okamoto, MD

Lani Wheeler, MD

Thomas Young, MD

Robert Murray, MD, Immediate Past Chairperson

Mary Vernon-Smiley, MD, MPH – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health

Linda Grant, MD, MPH – American School Health Association

Veda Johnson, MD – National Assembly on School-Based Health Care

Carolyn Duff, RN, MS, NCSN – National Association of School Nurses

Linda Davis-Alldritt, RN, MA, PHN – National Association of School Nurses

Madra Guinn-Jones, MPH

American Academy of Pediatrics

This document is copyrighted and is property of the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Board of Directors. All authors have filed conflict of interest statements with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Any conflicts have been resolved through a process approved by the Board of Directors. The American Academy of Pediatrics has neither solicited nor accepted any commercial involvement in the development of the content of this publication.

All policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics automatically expire 5 years after publication unless reaffirmed, revised, or retired at or before that time.

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7 Things to Know About School Recess

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Updated : A previous version of this article was published with the title, “6 Things to Know About School Recess.”

Recent U.S. education reform has focused on defining and raising the subject-matter standards students are expected to meet. In order to get their students up to snuff, schools are extending the school day and putting more and more emphasis on academic learning, which can squeeze out a beloved part of the traditional school day–recess.

What Time Is Recess?

In most schools recess is the only time in the school day reserved for outdoor and mostly unstructured play. It typically occurs once or twice in the day, often just before or after lunch.

The length of recess is rarely mandated at the state level. In some schools, it’s as short as 15 minutes, in others it lasts up to 45 minutes . Some schools have eliminated it altogether.

Is Recess Important?

For many, recess conjures memories of hopscotch or monkey bars. But whether or not recess plays a critical role in the mental, physical, emotional, and academic development of children has been a topic of much research and debate.

Here are seven findings about recess and its importance:

No. 1: Many U.S. Children Aren’t Active Enough

According to a 2017 study, fewer than 1 in 3 American children get enough exercise every week. This lack of movement could lead to obesity and health problems down the road. There are many reasons why students are less active, including more screen time and the greater prioritization of academics. Youth sports are also becoming increasingly specialized and competitive, which leads to increased costs for equipment and fees, shutting out some children from participating.

Related Reading: Getting Kids Moving Now Could Save Billions in Later Health Costs, Study Finds

No. 2: Structured Recess Can Improve a School’s Climate

Researchers studying a recess model developed by the nonprofit Playworks found that schools using it reported fewer bullying incidents and disciplinary referrals. Some key strategies of the model are: having equipment for games out and ready for children when they arrive for recess, having students play those games using agreed upon rules, and teaching conflict-resolution skills so that students can get back to playing quickly when a disagreement arises.

Related Reading: New Research Brief Supports Recess for All Elementary School Students

No. 3: Taking Away Recess as a Punishment Is on the Decline

As of 2015, at least 11 states had laws which keep schools from withholding recess from students for disciplinary reasons. Advocates of these policies cite the health and academic benefits that recess has for students. But some teachers push back. In some schools where discipline policies are already being changed to reduce suspensions and other punishments, teachers fear that taking away control over recess means that they lose yet another disciplinary tool.

Related Reading: Withholding Recess as a Punishment Declines

No. 4: Parents Fight for Recess

When two Orlando, Fla., mothers saw that their children were frustrated everyday by their lack of recess time, they petitioned the state government. After a three-year effort, they got a statewide recess mandate.

Related Video:

essay on school recess

No. 5: Finland is the Recess Champion

First graders in Finland spend only 4 ½ hours a day in school, and a whopping 1 ½ hours of that time is spent on recess or “unstructured outdoor play,” according to Debbie Rhea, an associate dean at Texas Christian University. Rhea was so persuaded by the Finnish model that she started a program called Project ISIS—Innovating Strategies, Inspiring Students—that includes four 15-minute recesses during the school day.

Related Reading: Give Students Time to Play (Commentary)

No. 6: The Quality of Recess Counts

Research finds that recess can help not only students’ physical health, but also improve their social skills and even their ability to learn. But not all recess is created equal, William Massey, an assistant professor of health and human sciences at Oregon State University, says.

“If kids go out to play at recess and they have green space and equipment ... and the social behaviors are in order and the adults have set up a system that encourages students to be active and play ... then that physical activity is likely to reap benefits in the school day, to their behavior and their learning—and I think the research shows that pretty well,” Massey said. “But when kids go outside and have 10 minutes on a cement blacktop with high fences, no green space, nothing to play with ... when there’s a lot of bullying, a lot of fighting, a lot of negative language, even if the students are physically active, it’s a hard argument to make that they go back into the class ready to learn better.”

Massey and other researchers created a 17-part observational framework to help school leaders evaluate their playgrounds and improve recess for their students.

Related Reading: Want to Build a Better Recess? Researchers Have a Framework for You

No. 7: A Formula for Better Recess: More Time and More Adults Participating

Researchers found that children with a longer recess period spent a larger percentage of their recess time being physically active than students who spent less time at recess. They also found that having more adults on the blacktop participating in play and mediating conflicts also increases students’ level of physical activity during recess.

Related Reading: The Secret to a More Active Recess? Get the Adults Involved, Research Says

Related Articles Whole-Child Journey: Why We Bumped Recess Up to 40 Minutes a Day The Importance of Play, Recess, Mindfulness, and Leadership (Opinion) Study Asks: Is There an Ideal Amount of Recess? Does More Time on the Playground Equal Success in the Classroom?

How to Cite This Article Riser-Kositsky, M. (2018, July 17). 7 Things to Know About School Recess. Education Week . Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/7-things-to-know-about-school-recess/2018/07

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Essay on “The Recess Period in a school” Complete Essay for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Essay No. 01

The Recess Period in a school

The recess period in school presents a very lively scene. After the captivity of four periods, the students get a chance of going out of the classroom. Most of the students behave exactly in the same way as prisoners coming out of a prison do their faces beam with joy when they roam about hand in hand on the ground adjoining the school. Some of the younger students go wild with join when the recess bell rings. They begin to thump the desks and shout violently standing in groups on the lawns of the school. They talk about their lessons and the teachers reaching them. Some of them do not like talking about school when they should refresh themselves. That is why I like it. It is situated in an open place. The building is fine with big airy rooms. The school has two large playgrounds, a library, and a laboratory. A hostel is also attached to it. The strength of the students is nearly one thousand. The principal and the teachers are trained and qualified. The weaker of the two is generally cried down. Just then the P.T.I. appears on the scene and he carries them to the Principal’s office where they are punished. Outside the school, there are hawkers selling Chat, Chhole, and Kuliches. There, too, you find students flocking around them.

Essay No. 2

The Recess Period In My School

Recess means a period of relaxation. It comes after four periods of continuous study. So everybody likes it after hard work. The recess period comes usually in the middle of the school hours. Its object is to allow some time to the teachers and the taught to refresh themselves mentally and physically.

Sometimes, before the recess period,. The student feels bored. They become inattentive to the lessons. They no longer follow the teachers. They grow tired of their lessons. They look forward to the recess period. Some of the naughty boys approach the school peon and ask him to ring the bell. All this shows that change is badly needed.       

As soon as the recess bell goes, all the boys shut their books and put them in their bags. They go out. This action of the boys sometimes makes the teacher angry. But they cannot help it. They want to be free for some time. They wish to remain away from the dull atmosphere of the class.

When the students come out of their classrooms, they relax themselves in different ways. The boys of rich families enjoy nice things- sweets, fruit, or mil which their parents send for them. The boys belonging to middle-class families eat some cheap things, which they buy from the hawkers, who reach school by the time of recess period. The poor boys generally bring food and eat it in the classrooms. Some schools have canteens. No hawker is allowed in the campus. We get tea, fruit, and other things in the canteen. Rates are fixed. Seats are neat and clean.

Having satisfied their hunger for recreation boys sit in groups and talk about many things. Sometimes the subject of their talk is some teacher whom they hate. At other times, it is some unpopular boy. At times, however, they talk of politics. The students of lower classes play with balls in the playground. Very often they use their time in laughing and merry-making. Some weak or absent students complete their homework.

As soon as the recess period is over, the happy mood of the students goes away. They become serious again. They run to their classrooms, lest they should be late, because they have their second attendance.

The recess period has become a regular feature in everyday life. These days there is an interval of half an hour in almost all offices. Nearly all the shops in the towns also enjoy lunchtime.

In winter, some institutions have two recesses – one short and the other long. The first break is given after two periods and the second after the fifth period to enjoy the recess period depending on the nature and need of the student. He can go either to the canteen or to the library. The main motto is how to refresh for further study.

Essay No. 3

Recess Period

Freedom is loved by all. Everyone likes to be free. It is, therefore , that the recess period in school is a great welcome to students as well as teachers. After working for four periods they require some rest and relax. The recess period fills them with new energies for the next four periods. It is from the beginning of fourth period, both the students and teachers wait for the recess anxiously. 

As soon as the bell goes, everyone in the school takes a sigh of relief and comfort. The calm and quiet atmosphere of school is broken by student’s shouts  of joy. They rush out of their classes of the school gate or school canteen or to the playground with football or cricket bat in hand. Still some others whose homes are nearby rush to their homes to enjoy the tea. Everywhere in school compound students laugh and talk with one another joyfully either discussing about a teacher or any recent experience. So they all feel relieved from the strict discipline of the classroom.

There is a lot of hustle and bustle in every corner of the school except the classrooms. The library and the reading room is full of students. The canteen is the busiest place. Every student seems to be so hungry that he wants to grapple with anything whatever he is able to catch hold of. There is a heavy rush at the water coolers and the water- taps.

This is also a time for bookworms to revise to revise their lessons again and the sports–loving trying new techniques in their favourite sports. the sports teachers keep busy with the aspirant participants in the competition games and the same is the case with the music lovers who listen to their favourite music in the music room and take special advice from their seniors.

It also a time to make new friends with the juniors and strengthen relations with the old ones and also talk incessantly about the new movies and serials, actors and actresses, new goods and restaurants.

In recess period the teachers also relax. The staff room is overcrowded and full of noise and mingling voices of the teachers. Some of the teachers take the  refreshment in the  form of tea or coffee. While others are engaged in gossiping or discussing politics or a recent cricket match. The teachers too enjoy the recess period like students.

The recess period comes to an end with the ringing of the call bell. All the students run to their classes. Within a few minutes the whole compound is again deserted. The teachers too, go to their respective classes and once again it is all calm and quite in the school.

Essay No. 04

The Recess Period

As in all schools, the recess period in our school is considered a very important period by the students.

Our school starts at 9.00 am. and is off at 3.00 pm. The recess period occurs from 12 noon to 12.40 pm. which means that it is held almost in the middle of the study period.

After almost half the study period is over, the students feel somewhat tired and even bored. They need some respite from hard lessons and also require some entertainment and refreshments.

As soon as the recess bell goes, the students rush out of their classes. Most of them rush towards the canteen. Many of them have Tiffin’s in their hands. The students take tea or some cold drinks and eatables in the canteen.

 It is obvious that then there is a great rush in the canteen. Some students keep sitting in the classrooms in small bunches. They take their home made meals together and have some chit-chat. Some of them, however, have to do their homework for the periods which occur in the afternoon.

 Only a few students go to the library during the recess period. I’m one of such students. A few other students go to play in the playground or just relax on the grassy lawns.

There may be seen a few students going to the school office to pay their fees or get their one or the other problem or complaint solved or redressed.

As soon as the bell declaring the end of the recess period goes, the students hurry to their classes and studies again start in right earnest.

Essay No. 05

Recess Period  

The recess period is a part of the school and college timetable. It is necessary for teachers and students alike. It is a period of rest and relaxation. It provides a much-needed relief after the continuous work of early hours. As soon as the bell of recess period goes, students rush out of their classrooms. Some students run towards the playground and begin to play some game. Others run to the canteen with their lunch-boxes. They take their lunch in this period. Still others go to the staff room to meet-their teachers. They get their difficulties about studies removed. A small number of them keep sitting in the classroom. They start doing their home tasks in this period. They want to finish it so that they may have free time at home. Teachers also spend this period in their own ways. Some take their lunch and discuss important matters regarding education. Others dabble their heads in politics. Still, others are busy in checking notebooks and removing students’ difficulties. When the recess period comes to an end all the students go back to their classes. The teachers also get busy in their classes.

Essay No. 06

Recess in School

The recess period is awaited eagerly by students and the teachers alike. After four periods of study, it comes.

Students run to taps for water. Some go to the toilets. Some go to the playground while some go to the school library.

Teachers go to the staff room. Some go to the shop. Some go to the playground while some go to the school library. Some take out their lunch boxes and do justice to them. Some students come to their teachers to get their help in solving difficult sums.

Students can be seen standing in groups talking or enjoying jokes. Students in the playground play games such as volleyball, football, or cricket. The recess period is half an hour.

The school PET’S can be seen at the playground watching players playing games. They are there to maintain discipline.

Sometimes some teachers also go to the playground. They play volleyball or sometimes cricket.

After half an hour the recess bell rings and the recess period is over. Students return to their classes fully refreshed for the next four periods to resume teaching work. The re- cess period is enjoyed by everyone in his or her own way.

After recess everyone looks fresh. Teachers go to their classes for roll-call. Then the fifth period begins.

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The Recess Period in The School Essay for Students, Short essay 210 words.

The Recess Period in The School

Recess period is a very important period in the school. It comes after four periods. After continuous studies for three hours, we get tired. Recess period is a welcome break. The children rush out from their classes as soon as the recess bell goes. All the teachers and students refresh themselves in the recess period. The children buy eatables from hawkers, who visit in school during recess period. There is also a great rush at the school tuck-shop. Many of the students bring their packed refreshments.

They sit on the lawns or under the trees to have their refreshment. During recess period, school canteen is the most busy place. Some of them take tea, samosa and bread-pakora. Some of the students play games during the interval. Some sit in groups and enjoy gossiping. During winter, the lawns are full to their capacity. In summers, there is a great rush at the water-taps and the water-coolers.

I finish my refreshment and then rush to the reading-room. The students read newspapers and magazines. If I am late then it is difficult to get a seat.

For teachers, it is a time to relax. Again the bell rings and recess comes to an end. The students run to their class-rooms.

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Student Opinion

How Do You Feel About High School?

Scroll through some work by the winning students and educators who participated in our “What High School Is Like in 2023” multimedia challenge. Then tell us how well the collection captures your experiences.

Five photos of high school scenes — a school bus, a hallway, a young woman's face, and two fingers with faces drawn on them — are embellished with digital drawings of stars, diamonds and hearts.

By Katherine Schulten

Please note: We invite teenagers and adults to reflect on the winning student and teacher work from our “What High School Is Like in 2023” challenge by posting comments here.

What is it like to be in school right now? What’s hard? What gives you joy or meaning? What do you wish more people understood?

The Learning Network asked students and educators to reflect on these questions and more via our “ What High School Is Like in 2023” multimedia challenge last fall. Nearly 4,000 people did, sending us poems and essays, videos, photos, graphs, GIFs and at least one diorama.

This week we published the winners of that challenge . You can see one of them at the top of this post, by Danna Ramirez, 16. Here is her artist’s statement to give her image a bit more context:

A Capture of Moments There are bittersweet moments that make you so grateful for your youth. Moments like when you have to make the choice of which seat you’ll take on the bus on a beautifully lit afternoon, or which hallway you’ll take to your chemistry class. Moments that show you the connections you’ll deem worth it and continue to work on, and moments that contribute to the person you choose to become. Ever since I started noticing the simple things, I learned to find something to appreciate about high school even during the hardest of times. These are the moments that you will reminisce about later on in life when someone asks you, “What was high school like?” Moments where you’re experimenting with who you are and where you stand in the world. Moments of finding your interests, your voice, your people.

Below, a few more, along with their related artist’s statements. We invite all readers — whether teenagers or adults — to scroll through the entire collection , and then tell us what you think by responding to any of the questions we list at the end of this post.

To the Lighthouse, by Chengyu Li, 16 High school in 2023 is stressful. Very often I suffocate in a spiral of thoughts. Every day there is a long to-do list waiting for me, every day there is an update on the climate crisis or another school shooting that reminds me of the fact that my generation now has to remedy the circumstances we find ourselves in. A responsibility that I will be graduating into within two years. But I titled the film “To The Lighthouse” for a reason. When the light shines on the papers sprawled on my desk near the end of the video, I wanted to express that the fear toward taking action is what holds one back from finding the light. Combating that fear and putting my time into actually trying assures me that I can at least see the lighthouse where it’s calling in the lost sailors back to land.
Dart Board of Possibilities, by Hazel Wells, 14 Imagine you’re playing darts with friends. Everyone is hitting the center of the board perfectly and effortlessly. Watching them do it makes you think “Oh I’ve got this, it can’t be that hard,” but when you step up to throw the dart you realize you don’t know where you’re supposed to aim or how to aim and you don’t know how hard to throw it or how you’re even supposed to hold the dart. Now imagine the stakes of this game are whether or not you enjoy the rest of your life. School was supposed to teach you how to play darts, but all you know is that you’re supposed to hit the board. It feels like I have just as much control over my life as I do where that dart will land. And I have horrible aim.
Late Nights of Magic, By Daniel Cao, 15 What was once an interesting gimmick has now become an essential tool. What once would’ve been hours of study has now been condensed to a few minutes of typing in prompts. Although this new method of “studying” has saved me countless hours and provided me with shortcuts to problems, I somehow feel a sense of melancholy. Now the work I produce seems somewhat soulless. It doesn’t grant the same satisfaction as finally finding that word on thesaurus.com that fits my rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter, or when that error finally disappears in the code I’ve been hacking at for hours. Now all of that can be done in a second. I love A.I. But I believe that high school students should sometimes put down the tools, grab a pen and “generate” some work of our own. I believe there is something truly magical when you create from scratch, carefully crafting every detail. We cannot be the generation to lose this magic.

Finally, this submission is from a teacher:

Thank You, Mr. Ziebarth, by Sean Ziebarth It had been a rough day. I tried to give one student some advice, but he stood up and said, “Mr. Ziebarth, I don’t find this advice helpful, so I’m not going to listen.” He walked away. At times, teaching feels like this — lessons don’t land, students tune out. It’s just that they don’t often say it to your face. But when they do, it stings. Later that day a student stopped by my room and gave me a thank you card, the one you see in this photo. It read, in part, “You are one of the most inviting yet unconventional teachers I’ve ever had … you are the only teacher I can say that I’ve truly liked, whose class I’ve truly enjoyed, and whose words and advice I’ve truly taken to heart.” Teaching can feel like this too — it’s just that students don’t often say it to your face. But when they do, it makes you want to sing! That’s why I keep a file folder stuffed-to-bursting with student notes and thank-you cards. I treasure them as an antidote for those days when the stings really smart. I made this photo to be a balm for my fellow teachers who may be wincing from the bumps and bruises inflicted on them by our current cultural climate, a hostility stemming, at times, from their own communities and school boards. Teachers of America, thank you! Keep going! Keep going for all those students you mean the world to. They may not tell you, but every day they take your words and advice to heart. And remember: You’re not alone.

Students, scroll through the entire collection , then tell us:

Which pieces are most interesting to you? Why? What would you like to say to these artists?

Which do you relate to most? Which reflect your own experiences of or emotions about being a student — or teacher?

Which pieces show you something new, or make you think about an aspect of school life in a way you haven’t before? Why?

What’s missing from this collection? What additional experiences have you, or others you know, had that could be added to make this portrait of life in school more complete?

If you had submitted to this challenge, what aspect of being in school might you have documented?

How does the story these students and educators tell about being in high school compare with the stories about students and teachers you often hear from the news media or adults? What do you think our larger society needs to know about what it’s really like to be a student or teacher in 2023?

We ran this challenge in part to celebrate our 25th anniversary as a site. If we had asked teachers and students to submit work about what high school was like in 1998, when The Learning Network began, how might the collection have been different? What if we run this challenge again 25 years from now, in 2048? What aspects of high school life do you think will stay the same, and which will change?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.

Katherine Schulten has been a Learning Network editor since 2006. Before that, she spent 19 years in New York City public schools as an English teacher, school-newspaper adviser and literacy coach. More about Katherine Schulten


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