Recess Plays Important Role in Child Development, Study Says


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OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, hosted an interim study in front of the House Common Education Committee on Tuesday to study the benefits that recess provides Oklahoma students. 

The study featured educators and education policy advocates who spoke about how recess can affect a child’s development and what some Oklahoma schools are implementing to get the most out of recess.

Rosecrants, who authored the Play to Learn Act last legislative session, which went into effect earlier this year, and which empowers early childhood educators to teach via play in their classrooms, hopes this study can show fellow lawmakers that recess is not a blank space in a student’s day but a meaningful time that helps children grow in a positive manner, and can even lead to better educational outcomes. 

“So many of our schools are so busy preparing for state tests, that recess is either shortened or taken away,” Rosecrants said. “The data put forth in this study proves that not only is recess of utmost importance for the physical and mental health wellbeing of students, but allowing outdoor breaks for these kids to be kids will also lead to better academic outcomes. As much as it may go against many preconceived notions about student achievement, allowing more recess to occur in our public schools will lead to better test scores. As I’ve said many times, play is learning.”

Presenters were consistent in pointing out that recess is more than children having fun; recess allows students a chance to decompress and relate with other students, which benefits a child’s development. 

“Recess might give a student the physical activity they need or the peace that they need,” said Missy Smith, a school counselor at Lincoln Elementary in Norman. “Learning doesn’t stop at recess. It changes. Recess improves student thinking by allowing students to decompress, and it improves their social skills.”

A consensus among presenters was the necessity of recess. Like adults, children need a break. Yet, recess is often held over a student’s head in an attempt to control the child’s behavior. 

“Students need recess every day,” said Christine Harris, lead kindergarten teacher at Epperly Heights elementary school in the Mid-Del area. “Recess has become a bargaining chip. Recess should be showing your new friends how fast you can run in your new shoes. Recess should not be connected with what you did or did not do in the classroom or at home. Recess is a chance for a child to be a kid.”

Rosecrants recognizes that mandating recess won’t fully solve the problem. As some presenters pointed out, many schools lack the resources to have robust and effective recess times.

“Recess is a chance for the classroom teacher to decompress and transition to the next learning activity,” Rosecrants said. “If we are asking them to give up that time, it could lead to inferior results and low morale. The fact that our schools are already short-staffed is a hurdle we’ll need to address. Having an effective recess is going to require adequate resources from the Legislature. This study has shown that protecting recess is a worthy investment for our children, their parents, and our teachers.”

Rosecrants expects to author legislation from the study. His office can be reached at (405)557-7329 or jacob.rosecrants@okhouse.gov

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