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Florida Makes Headway On Mandatory Recess Bill

A bill that would require elementary schools to provide 20 minutes of guaranteed recess to Florida students may be one step closer to being passed, after massive support from state senators. The push for the bill has been led by Miami Republican Senator, Anitere Flores.

"Requiring daily recess in elementary schools is overwhelmingly favored by parents who have lobbied aggressively for the change in Florida law. It's also supported by a majority of state lawmakers," according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"But the effort still faces a potential repeat of 2016 — when the proposal stalled over a single lawmaker's opposition." The House passed the measure last session, however, John Legg, the former Pre-K-12 education committee chairman, blocked a vote on the bill. According to the Times, Legg wanted to prevent another mandate on schools, though it's hard to see recess being too much to ask of elementary schools.

Studies show that regular physical activity can improve mental well-being and academic achievement. The Today Show recently profiled Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, which adopted Liink's experimental recess program for its kindergartners and first graders. The program provides students with four 15-minute recesses each school day. Since implementing Liink's model, the school's teachers have noticed that their students are more focused, listen more attentively, and behave better. The Liink group's study of these students also found that they were "significantly more empathetic toward their peers than are kids who don’t get recess," according to The Atlantic.

As The Atlantic points out, this attempt by Florida and other states to ensure that students are provided sufficient time for physical exercise and play bucks a trend that started in the early 2000s. At that time, school districts sought to curtail or eliminate recess time because of onerous No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirements and growing concerns about bullying. NCLB is no more, and research suggests that recess actually helps students "mediate their own conflicts—activities that are key to developing social skills and navigating complicated situations."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, recess "serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it." In essence, recess helps students in ways we could not have imagined. It's not just play time for students. 

"This bill is here as a result of moms from across the state having to listen to their children come home — their 7-year-old son come home — and say, 'Mom, I'm so tired. I hate going to school; I hate going to school because there's nothing for me to look forward to.' " Flores said according to the Tampa Bay Times. "This was a real grassroots effort of moms from across the state, saying: 'Can you please help? Can you please be the voice in Tallahassee that I can't be?'"

The reasoning for recess far outweighs any cons opponents can come up with. Florida's recess legislation doesn't seem so controversial when you consider the mounting evidence showing the benefits recess has on students' physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being.

 

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.

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