Optimal development of the “whole child” means incorporating academic subjects while allowing time for safe and well-supervised recess, because recess yields “cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it,” authors write in a 2013 report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Recess is sometimes cut out of the school day in order to allow more time for instruction, all in the interest of getting higher scores on standardized tests used for accountability purposes. But some evidence suggests the move to reduce recess may be counterproductive.
Now comes the LiiNK Project, which has established a network of 14 public schools and six school districts in Texas and Oklahoma. Following a pilot in four schools last year, students received much more recess each day than they were getting before and actually spent more time learning in class, the Washington Post reports.
It’s too early to support any scientific conclusions from the project, but anecdotal evidence from the pilot looks promising. The project connects play and character development and, in so doing, fulfills the needs of the whole child, including academic or cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
With the LiiNK Project, developed by Debbie Rhea at Texas Christian University, early elementary students have four 15-minute recess periods every day, with each coming after about an hour of instruction. By middle school, the number of recess periods goes down to two a day.
“I started the program because I was tired of seeing students burn out by third grade, teachers burn out in five years, and schools that focused primarily on testing from the time children entered in pre-K or K all the way through high school,” the Post quoted her as saying in an email. “I saw in 2011 that Finland was doing things differently, so I went over there and lived for six weeks to determine what it was that they were doing that we might be able to implement.
“The two pieces (recess and character development) that I’m doing in the 14 public schools now are two of the things I identified in Finland. The funny part is we used to do recess and character development in the ’60s and ’70s, but we went a different direction over the years and Finland learned from us and stayed the course.”
Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, was one of the pilot schools. Principal Bryan McLain knew kids weren’t able to sit still for an entire day of classroom instruction. With the added recess, kids are actually sitting for more time each day, because they come back from each recess more focused on learning. “Kids are solving their own problems much more independently,” he was quoted as saying.