I’m going out on a limb here. Recess is important.
At some point in the last 20 years, someone, somewhere, decided that kids didn’t need as much time outside to run, jump, and scream as my generation. In the 1980’s we called it recess. Nowadays, it’s just called a waste of time. Instead of being allowed to run around and burn that never ending supply of energy, kids apparently need to learn to sit up straight, keep still, and study, study, study – pretty much until they drop. In a country where the obesity rate among children is the highest in the world, and the occurrence of medicating children is reaching all-time highs every year, reducing or removing recess makes about as much sense as removing the wheels on your car in hopes of a smoother ride.
It’s just stupid.
Somewhere around 2010, Common Core was introduced. The wisdom, if you want to call it that, behind Common Core is the program offers the 45 participating states (plus the District of Columbia) a means for evaluating their students’ achievements in several subject areas among other participating programs nationwide, through standardized testing. The schools are then ranked and teachers are rated based on the test results; moreover, teachers’ pay scales and job statuses are determined within the testing results. With mounting pressure to succeed, many schools have claimed they simply do not have enough time to meet curriculum needs plus teach the information on the test, and therefore have decided to reduce and/or remove the allotted recess time to compensate. Since Common Core went into effect, many teachers, school administrators, and even unions have spoken out on the ludicrous expectation placed on children to sit still and remain focused for hours and hours on end without an opportunity to burn off energy outdoors. And still, recess is disappearing faster than a summer storm in Texas.
Never mind the idea that the Centers for Disease Control released a study in 2014 stating that approximately 33% of youth in the United States are obese.
Never mind the idea that Cornell University published a study in 2014 showing that kids who have recess before lunch tend to choose healthier foods for lunch.
Never mind the many studies proving the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development that occurs through playful interactions among children.
Never mind that Finland, who by the way has one of the finest educational systems on the planet, schedules free-time for kids to play and just be kids.
It seems that the only people still smiling as recess disappears are the Ritalin folks, because guess what? Kids who cannot sit still need medication. Lots of it. They get to throw their alphabet soup in your face and claim they have a solution. Yeah, well, I have a solution, too. Leave the wheels on your car and let the kids run around a little here and there, it just might work.
And in case you’re still not sold, please take a few minutes to peruse this article, which summarizes a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University suggesting that time outdoors may actually decrease the prevalence of myopia in children. Michael X. Repka, M.D., who editorialized the study wrote:
“Given the popular appeal of increased outdoor activities to improve the health of school-aged children in general, the potential benefit of slowing myopia development and progression by those same activities is difficult to ignore”
So with this latest boost offered by our friends in Ophthalmology, could it possibly be time to consider the idea that kids need to be outside running, jumping, skipping and throwing? Have we now come to a point where the theory of removing recess is going to land on its head due to the increased prevalence of myopia? Is anyone paying attention to the idea that doctors are now seeing the negative effects of children having their recess reduced and/or removed? Maybe if Pediatric Ophthalmology and Developmental Optometry teamed up on this front, more people would start to listen, and as an added bonus the fence between professions could begin to mend.
More recess and less myopia – plus, an opportunity to improve the developmental lives of millions upon millions of kids. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
Go ahead, call me crazy. I dare to dream big.
FOOTNOTE: I fully recognize and understand that Common Core is a politically charged issue. Please do not view this post as an invitation to state your own political views or trample someone else’s. Those conversations should be held elsewhere. The intent of this post is to offer a perspective on the need for unstructured playtime in the healthy development of a child. Nothing more, nothing less.