The backlash against recess cuts has been based on several
benefits that recess offers. Childhood obesity is a growing problem. According
to the Surgeon General, number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled in
the past two decades. The Surgeon General recommends that children get at least
sixty minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
Although physical education classes do provide children with
an opportunity to exercise, most children will not get enough exercise from
physical education classes alone. Additionally, many children do not have the
facilities, time, or motivation to exercise after school. Recess can provide
children with the extra exercise they need.
In addition to preventing obesity, exercising during recess
may also help students pay attention during class. In 1993, Pelligrini and
Davis published the results of a study on the effects of recess on classroom
behavior. The results showed that many students build up excess energy and may
become fidgety and unable to concentrate during class when denied the
opportunity to exercise during recess. Additionally, the California Department
of Education conducted a study that showed that children who are physically
active score higher on the Stanford Achievement Test. If this is true, then
schools that are cutting recess in order to increase class time and raise
standardized test scores may actually be doing more harm than good.
The unstructured nature of recess has its benefits, too.
During recess, children are able to interact with each other without the
strictness imposed during class time. Children have to create their own rules
and customs in order to get along. As a result, they learn important social
skills, such as patience, communication, and sharing, and they learn to use
these skills without an adult telling them to do so. Although students do
occasionally get hurt during recess, most injuries are minor.
Finally, another benefit to recess is simply that it
provides children with a chance to play. Children are children, and they like
to play; many of the best childhood memories involve recess. Even without the
health and developmental benefits, recess could still be considered worthwhile.