Time to Play: More State Laws require Recess

Jana Della Rosa’s 7-year-old son Riley has never been particularly interested in her work as an Arkansas representative. At least until she started urging students to take a 40-minute break every day. Then, she said, he became a novelist.

“I’ve never had a cool job,” said Dela Rosa, a Republican from Rogers City and mother of two. “Mom has a cool job now. He asks me at least once a week, ‘Do you have more time off?'”

Efforts to pass legislation to force pupils to take breaks have gathered momentum amid a teacher strike targeting a system that feels unresponsive to teachers and students. Kids like Riley aren’t the only ones who think it’s a good idea: study after study shows that unstructured playtime is critical for development because it not only benefits physical health, it also improves cognitive abilities, which are usually not related to games, including attention and memory.

Sensing that a movement is brewing, driven by frustrated teachers, parents, and advocacy groups like the National PTA, politicians across the US are introducing legislation to align school calendars with existing research and require school education. Younger students provide more playtime.

Research Shows…

The benefits of school go beyond the value of time outside.

For example, a 2014 study of more than 200 elementary school students found that physical activity improves students’ physical fitness and brain function, as well as their accuracy and reaction time on cognitive tasks. Other research has found that children who are well-timed during school demonstrate greater creativity and problem-solving skills, are less disruptive and learn important social lessons, such as how to behave. How to resolve disputes and establish cooperative relations.

Citing all of these factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017 made a clear distinction between play and exercise and defined rest as “unstructured physical activity and play,” recommending at least 20 minutes of rest per day at the elementary level.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has joined in, describing the interruption in a 2012 policy statement as “a day off to optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development” and “should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” “.”

“This makes me cry”

Over the past two decades, as the federal No Child Left Behind Act has introduced a new focus on standardized testing, and schools have responded to new safety concerns and budget cuts, holidays have been increasingly seen as consumable.

According to a study by the George Washington University Center for Education Policy, 20 percent of school districts reduced recess to emphasize core subjects between 2001 and 2006. By 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that one-third of elementary schools did not offer daily breaks for any classes.

“If you go back 135 years to the beginnings of public schools and the quest to educate children, they all had a break,” said pediatrician Robert Murray, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics statement.

“In the ’90s, when we were more and more focused on core courses, academic performance, and test scores, etc., people started to think of breaks as free time to take away,” Murray said.

Both researchers and teachers say children suffer. Deb McCarthy, a fifth-grade teacher at Lillian M. Jacobs Elementary School in Hull, Massachusetts, said she noticed an increase in behavioral problems and anxiety about eight years ago. She blamed the school’s increased expectations and loss of playtime. She said children in some schools had no breaks at all because time once reserved for the play was now being spent preparing for exams.

“It made me cry,” McCarthy said, echoing the frustration of many elementary school teachers across the country who believe more “sit-down time” is not suitable for development. “I’ve been teaching for 22 years and I’ve seen change.”

States of Play

Now some states are trying to turn things around. At least five have violation laws on the books: Missouri, Florida, New Jersey, and Rhode Island require elementary school students to take 20-minute breaks a day, while Arizona requires two breaks for no specified length.

Seven other states — Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Connecticut, and Virginia — require elementary schools to get 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which allows Schools to choose how to allocate their time. Recently, the Connecticut legislature introduced a bill that would increase the state’s time commitment to 50 minutes.

Much of the legislation in recent years has been initiated at the urging of parents and teachers. The Florida law, first proposed in 2016, was passed in 2017 after a statewide Facebook group called “Vacation Moms” appointed lawmakers. The group is now helping parents in other states lead their free-play fights.

A bill requiring a 20-minute break in Massachusetts was voted down last year, but McCarthy, a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s government relations committee, hopes to pass this year. “We were very close last time, but then they decided to look into it,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know what to study.”

Some educators have expressed concern that recess laws add another task to an already demanding school day. Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union and former fifth-grade teacher, said Florida’s suspension requirement is “a good thing, but they forget how much it applies.”

Others have decided to reconsider school or district breaks. A program in several Texas school districts called LiiNK (Let’s Inspire Innovative Kids) has kids take four 15-minute breaks outdoors each day.

Debbie Rhea, a professor and associate dean at Texas Christian University, launched the initiative after seeing a similar approach in Finland. It reminded her of her elementary school days.

“We forget what childhood is supposed to be like,” said Rhea, who was a physical education teacher before entering science. “If we remember the time before the test – it was in the 60s, 70s, early 80s – kids were allowed to be kids if we remembered.”

LiiNK is a huge change for Eagle Mountain Saginaw Independent School District, which has quadrupled school breaks since the program started four years ago.

“We’ve seen some amazing changes in our students,” said LiiNK district coordinator Candice Williams-Martin. “Her creative writing has improved. Her fine motor skills have improved, her BMI(body mass index) has improved. Class attention has improved.”

New Beginnings

The trend to embrace breaks is encouraging researchers like Murray, who want schools to continue giving children this important free time. “I think a lot of schools are starting to say, ‘Oh my God, if our goal is to help students learn, it turns out that’s an advantage rather than a disadvantage,'” Murray said.

Betty Warren, a kindergarten teacher at Banyan Elementary School in Broward County, Florida, says she always makes time for her students to relax. Even when she was a high school teacher, she would have her math club students play hula hoops or bouncing balls while she worked on the multiplication table.

“They just have a hard time sitting for long periods, so taking a break helps. They’re more focused and ready to settle in and listen and learn,” she said. “Besides, school is fun. I firmly believe it must be fun.”

Back in Arkansas, Dela Rosa joked that she felt “finally able to deliver on the campaign promise I made when I ran for class president in fifth grade: more time off for everyone.”

About the article

Efforts to pass legislation to force pupils to take breaks have gathered momentum amid a teacher strike targeting a system that feels unresponsive to teachers and students. In this article, we’ve discussed why More State Laws Require Recess. 

Bill westermen

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