Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?
In a new study released Tuesday, Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University rigorously evaluated the Playworks program and found that it improved outcomes in the areas of school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, physical activity, and learning and academic performance.
Playworks, a whole child partner organization, is a U.S-based nonprofit organization that transforms schools by providing play and physical activity at recess and throughout the school day. Currently, the program serves 360 schools in 22 cities across the country, reaching nearly 270,000 students. Its goal is to increase efforts to 27 cities by 2015, thereby providing play and physical activity to more than 1 million students every day.
Key findings in the study include:
- Less bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess compared to teachers in control schools—a 43 percent difference in average rating scores.
- Increased feelings of safety at school. Playworks teachers' average rating of students' feelings of safety at school was 20 percent higher than the average rating reported by teachers in control schools.
- More vigorous physical activity. Accelerometer data showed that children in Playworks schools spent significantly more time engaged in vigorous physical activity at recess than their peers in control schools (14 percent versus 10 percent of recess time—a 43 percent difference).
- Ready to learn. Teachers in Playworks schools reported spending significantly less time to transition from recess to learning activities (34 percent fewer minutes).
Despite shrinking budgets, schools are faced with the challenge of boosting academic performance while also having to address the social, emotional, and physical needs of students. Recess and other school-based playtime are some of the least-studied elements of the school day. Elementary school principals and teachers often say, however, that as goes recess, so goes the school day. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that "recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child's social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development."
Learn more about Playworks, the importance of play and physical activity, and hear from Playworks founder and CEO Jill Vialet in these blog posts and podcast:
- "Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child" by Jill Vialet
- "Playing a Game Is the Voluntary Attempt to Overcome Unnecessary Obstacles" by Sean Slade
- "More Than Just Gym: Integrating Movement Across the School Day," ASCD Whole Child Podcast