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Group Attempts to Bring Recess Back

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is launching an effort to increase the amount of recess time students receive through a new campaign featuring the group’s fictional mascot Ranger Rick.

The Ranger Rick Restores Recess Campaign seeks to return daily recess to our nation’s schools by working with state legislatures and state boards of education to implement policies that ensure recess for elementary students. This initiative is an integral part of NWF’s goal to get 10 million more kids outside over the next three years. Parents can also encourage their local school district to adopt a daily recess policy, since all school districts throughout the country have the authority to do so. Only a few states (Connecticut, Hawaii and Missouri) have adopted a statewide recess requirement.

"Students are missing a critical part of their development when sufficient recess is withheld from their school experience,” says Allen Cooper, Senior Manager of State Education Advocacy for NWF. “If we want to maximize our children’s potential, critical recess time must be a regular part of their school day.”

Today however, as many as nine million children (approximately thirty percent of elementary schools) get far less recess time than their parents did, according to a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Illinois.  

In conjunction with the Ranger Rick Restores Recess Campaign, NWF is offering recommendations for a good recess policy. Those recommendations state that recess should: 

  • Require at least 20 minutes per day of supervised recess
  • Be scheduled in addition to designated physical education and lunch periods, not as a replacement for it
  • Be outdoors, except for in extreme weather conditions
  • Be in a safe outdoor play area with play equipment
  • Provide access to a natural play area
  • Not be withheld from students as punishment or cancelled to make up for missed instructional time.

"Our school’s goal for students is that they engage in 60 minutes of outdoor physical play each day,” said Dahlia Aguilar, Principal at the Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington DC. “Meaningful outdoor play and physical activity promotes character by developing students’ perseverance and fitness through physical challenge, collaboration and shared experiences."

Leading child health and development organizations have recognized the importance of recess to a child’s physical, social and academic development. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in December 2012 emphasizing that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.

The AAP statement says that “minimizing or eliminating recess can negatively affect academic achievement, as growing evidence links recess to improved physical health, social skills and cognitive development.”

There are other less obvious benefits to recess. It also provides children the opportunity to practice life skills such as cooperation, taking turns, following rules, sharing, communications, negotiation, problem solving and conflict resolution. Recess gives children access to the natural world even if it is just seeing the sky and clouds, feeling the sun, watching birds, or checking out worms on the pavement after a rain storm.

“Recess rejuvenates my students' enthusiasm for learning while stimulating cognition and encouraging student success,” said Erika Jones, teacher at Forrest Hills Elementary School in Atlanta.


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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