Recess: An Undeniably Beneficial Part of the School Day

Earlier this year I shadowed a very accomplished, dedicated counselor at New Hope Elementary named Kim Kelleher. Throughout the day I followed her as she exemplified what a truly successful school counselor does each day and told me stories of improvements that were made throughout her years. While adding a garden to the school and increasing the amount of necessary school supplies were great accomplishments, Mrs. Kelleher seemed to emphasize one more than the others-  getting back recess time. I was immediately confused as I assumed all elementary students had to have time for recess to take a break from the day and recharge their brain. Mrs. Kelleher then informed me that their new principal decided to take away recess on days students had P.E. class, which was twice a week.

To no surprise, not a single student agreed with this change and they wanted to do something about it. Mrs. Kelleher is in charge of and works closely with the student council. She decided to set a goal for them to reclaim their recess time for every day. To achieve their goal the student council of New Hope Elementary had to prepare a presentation for administration on the benefits of recess, and the negative effect no recess can have on students. The student council achieved their goal, meaning they must have had some solid research. Interested by this, I decided to take a look into how beneficial recess is, and why no principal should take that time away.

Recess is necessary for children to have a break from learning and enhance their social, cultural, physical and intellectual intelligence. According to Rae Pica, a children’s physical activity specialist and author of Why Kids Need Recess

“research dating back to the late 1800s indicates that people learn better and faster when their efforts are distributed, rather than concentrated.”

While it is important to learn skills in the classroom, at the elementary age, learning should involve all areas of intelligence. This is a major time for children to develop socially replacing recess time with a physical education class does not provide all of the same benefits.

Another interesting point Pica made was that taking recess away is usually an ineffective punishment. Recess can be the time for the trouble makers who can’t seem to stop talking during class, let out their social side on the playground. Taking this time away usually only worsens the problem instead of solving it. Pica gives seven benefits to recess which include…

  1. Everyone benefits from a break.
  2. Recess increases focus.
  3. Natural light improves wellness.
  4. Recess reduces stress.
  5. Recess develops social skills.
  6. Exercise is healthy.
  7. Physical activity feeds the brain.

While several of those can come from P.E class, recess provides each of those benefits. Depriving students of a break will only make their attention span throughout the day shorter. Learning in the classroom is already done for the majority of the day, so thirty minutes to an hour of outside freedom can only be beneficial to young, developing children.


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