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Monday, September 22, 2014

School Recess Improves Behavior

From The New York Times' Health Blog "Well"

January 28, 2009

Children who misbehave at school are often punished by having to stay inside at recess. But new research shows that giving children recess actually helps solve behavioral problems in class.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reviewed data on about 11,000 third graders, collected in 2002 as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, financed by the United States Department of Education to determine how a wide range of family, school, community and individual factors affect a child’s school performance.

Children at the the International Community School in
Decatur, Ga., playing kickball during recess.
(Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times)

The study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics, found that about one in three of the children in the group received fewer than 15 minutes of daily recess or none at all. Compared with children who receive regular recess, the children who were cooped up during the school day were more likely to be from public schools in the Northeast or South. They also were more likely to be black, from low-income and less-educated families and live in large cities.

When teachers were asked to rate children’s behavior, the kids who received at least 15 minutes of daily recess scored better than those who didn’t get recess. Dr. Romina M. Barros, a pediatrician and assistant professor at Albert Einstein, said the data were important because many new schools were being built without adequate outdoor space for students. She says it’s a “big mistake” for teachers to punish a child for bad behavior by denying recess.

“We need to understand that kids need a break," Dr. Barros said. “Our brains can concentrate and pay attention for 45 to 60 minutes, and in kids it’s even less. For them to be able to acquire all the skills we want them to learn, they need a break to go out and release the energy and play and be social."

Schools need to recognize that recess is an essential part of a child’s learning experience, Dr. Barros said. At recess, students “use all the things they learned in the classroom. When they are doing hopscotch they use math skills. Kids learn a lot about social skills during recess, such as playing, sharing, being the leader, following somebody. It’s all very important.’’

It’s not clear from the data whether teachers also were affected by a lack of recess. It may be that teachers who were stuck in the classroom had less patience and gave children harsher scores for relatively benign behavior than teachers who received recess breaks themselves.

“If the teacher, an adult, is tired of being inside the classroom,’’ Dr. Barros said, “can you imagine how it must feel to a 7- or 8-year-old?’’


Upcoming Special Events
  • October 2 (Thursday) 1:00pm Eastern: "Between the Synapse" internet radio broadcast on educating students with emotional or behavioral challenges, featuring special guests Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA, director of behavioral services at NESCA, and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. Free app required to listen. Details HERE.
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:30am - 5:00pm: "Practical Perspectives, Positives Lives" - Annual Asperger's Syndrome Connection conference sponsored by AANE at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA. Keynote Speakers: Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.; Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA; Michael Forbes Wilcox. Info, registration HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:00am - 4:00pm: MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference; "Dyslexia, Inattention & Anxiety." Keynote speaker: Dr. Edward Hallowell, with NESCA Neuropsychologist Angela Currie, Ph.D. Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center. Details and registration HERE.

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