Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child
Post submitted by Jill Vialet, founder and CEO of whole child partner Playworks
A healthy, positive school environment transcends what goes on in the classroom. In fact, what happens at recess holds a crucial key to developing the whole child. A school that provides time and space for students to run, talk, and play helps ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Experience and research tell us that active students learn better, and daily recess is proven to help students focus in the classroom.
Unfortunately, recess can also be a headache. Elementary school principals say they face the most behavior issues at recess. Recess supervision can be challenging, compounding the stresses on a staff already spread thin with other responsibilities. And the demands on the schoolyard really are greater than we remember, with students often relying more on adult support in solving conflicts and many children stepping onto the playground knowing fewer games than did previous generations.
Investing in recess can lessen playground headaches, and a recent study shows it can even contribute to the overall school climate. Playworks is a national nonprofit that works across the country leveraging recess and play to promote learning and physical activity. By providing both a direct service model and training, over the past 15 years we've seen recess become a tool of change. By placing just one trained adult on the school playground, we've changed the dynamic by teaching students rules to games, tools to solve conflicts, and a system to promote a positive play environment. And although teachers and principals report our impact every year, we now have the evidence-based research that substantiates their experience. A rigorous, randomized control study found that a safe, inclusive recess can reduce bullying, improve behavior, and nurture safer schools. Researchers from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University compared schools with Playworks to a control group with no interventions. This new research contributes to a growing body of evidence that a safe and healthy recess environment is a key driver of better behavior and learning—and can benefit the entire school day.
We're very excited about what this research says about how schools can support learning with a healthy recess. Here are some of the findings:
- Less bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess than teachers in control schools.
- Better recess behavior and readiness for class. Teachers at Playworks schools tended to report better student behavior at recess and readiness for class than teachers at control schools, and they were more likely to report that their students enjoyed adult-organized recess activities.
- More time for teaching. Teachers in Playworks schools reported having fewer difficulties and spending significantly less time transitioning to learning activities after recess than teachers in control schools. Playworks students were also more likely than control students to report better behavior and attention in class after sports, games, and play.
- Safer schools. Teachers in Playworks schools perceived that students felt safer and more included at recess compared to teachers in control schools.
The exciting thing is that these results do more than substantiate the Playworks program. They show that it is possible to create a recess that goes beyond the necessary outlet kids need during the school day. By investing in recess—and in properly training the adults to model healthy and inclusive play every day—we can create healthier, happier students and develop the whole child. Need support with recess? Check out Playworks Training.
How does your school invest in the power of recess?