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‘Quadruple Recess’ For Better Academic Results

‘Quadruple Recess’ For Better Academic Results

"Educators must start to realize that active kids are not only healthier, they are smarter, too.”

SILVER SPRING, MD – January 26, 2016 – For school children at six Texas elementary schools, recess is an absolute daily academic necessity.  And, when there’s more recess, the students learn more.  In other words, recess and exercise are two of the foundations for academic achievement.

At the six elementary schools in the greater Fort Worth/Irving, Texas area, children in kindergarten and first grade are having 60 minutes of recess a day -- four 15-minute recess periods. Most U.S. elementary schools average only 27 of activity minutes a day.  The extra 33 minutes of daily unstructured free time is helping the Texas children learn when they return to the classroom. And, elementary school children in Texas are required to get at least 135 minutes a week of physical education which is in addition to the extra recess time.Swing

“As a result of adding the multiple recesses daily to the already scheduled physical education at least three days per week, we are seeing preliminary data demonstrating better academic results,” says TCU kinesiologist Dr. Debbie Rhea. “Physical activity is so important to learning. As a nation, we are making a huge mistake removing recess and physical education from the K-12 school day. By offering the structured and unstructured physical activity and play experiences throughout the school day, I have no doubt that our children’s health and academic performance will improve.” 

This Texas 60 minutes of recess approach is based on Finland’s educational approach -- consistently ranked as one of the world’s top education systems – which gives its students 75 minutes of recess and physical activity breaks a day.  According to Rhea, a key missing ingredient from the current U.S. education system is more recess and time for students to be physically active.

"I went over there (to Finland) to find out where they've come in the last 20 to 25 years. Yes, their test scores are good, but they are also healthy in many regards," Rhea said to National Public Radio.  "So, I came back with the idea to bring recess back to the schools. Not just one recess, but multiple recesses.  Another key component of this project is a character development curriculum three times a week -- 15 minutes at a time.”

In Finland, that country’s global high school rank in reading is 5th, 12th in math, and 6th in science.  The U.S.’s rank is worse in all three subjects:  21st in reading, 31st in math, and 24th in science.  Again, the one missing element from the U.S. education system is more recess and physical activity breaks such as physical education.

The 60 minutes of daily recess is part of a study – the Liink Project -- conducted by Texas Christian University (TCU).  Two of the overall goals of the Liink Project are to increase the amount of time for daily recess and to restructure the school day so there’s more time for play and creativity.

This study is expected to expand to other schools in Texas and other states next year.  The overall goal is to add one grade a year at each school so that within nine years, students from kindergarten to ninth grade will be getting more daily recess and physical activity breaks.NBC Quadruple

This story about the power of extra recess has been reported recently by National Public Radio and NBC News.

"If you want a child to be attentive and stay on task, and also if you want them to encode the information you're giving them in their memory, you've got to give them regular breaks," told pediatrician Bob Murray to NPR.  Murray has spearheaded research at Ohio State University, where studies have been done which confirm the validity of the Texas recess experiment.  Murray says brain imaging reveals that children are more prone to learning after being given time for unstructured play and physical activity.

In fact, Murray and his colleague Dr. Cathy Ramstetter have created a policy statement on this issue which they sent to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Their message was rather direct.  For children to be expected to behave, learn, and develop (academically, socially, and emotionally), they need recess every day.  

“As a nation, we have been so consumed with test scores and have not paid attention to what is necessary for students to learn,” adds Rhea.  “We have been holding our students hostage in their classroom.”

“I congratulate Dr. Debbie Rhea for implementing the Liink Project in Texas,” states Jim Baugh, Founder, PHIT America, which is working to reverse America’s ‘Inactivity Pandemic,’ which starts with getting more recess and P.E. in U.S. schools. “I have visited Finland and I’m aware of the Finnish approach to education and how it incorporates exercise to complement academics.  I know this is the key to getting kids healthier and smarter.  Many school systems in the U.S. have cut recess which helps shut down kids’ bodies and brains in school.  In the U.S., we have to get children more active in school because kids do better academically when they have frequent physical activity breaks.  Educators must start to realize that active kids are not only healthier, they are smarter, too.”

According to Rhea, the elementary children who have 60 minutes of recess each day return from recess more focused, more organized, and they are getting through their lessons in plenty of time.  In fact, many of the students are ahead of schedule on learning, while spending less time in the classroom.  The extra recess helps the children make better eye contact during class and they are less distracted.

“It was very clear from the work in Finland and research from many neuroscientists that outdoor play is beneficial to learning,” says Gary Krahn, former headmaster of Trinity Valley School (Fort Worth, TX), which is one of the six schools participating in the Liink Project.
“We were pleasantly surprised at how well students responded to the new schedule and content changes,” says Marilyn Tolbert, Ed. D., Director of the TCU Starpoint Laboratory School (Fort Worth, TX), which is one of the six schools participating in the Liink Project.  “They reported problem-solving and critical-thinking skills improved as the year progressed.”

“There’s between one and two hours a day of what we call distraction in the classroom, that with this recess, takes away from the distraction, therefore they (the students) are on-point the whole time they are in the classroom now,” said Rhea to NBC News.

Those conclusions are supported by additional research uncovered by PHIT America, which has cited more than 10 research sources that support the academic (and health) benefits of providing physical activity breaks for students during time spent at school.