February 24, 2023
Recess is an important aspect of a child's education, and education research has shown that it plays a vital role in children's social, cognitive, and physical development and health.
Social development is an important component of recess: Children learn important social skills, such as cooperation and communication, through play, and recess provides an opportunity for children to engage in play with their peers. Studies have shown that children who have regular recess have better social skills and are more likely to have positive relationships with their peers than children who do not have recess.
Recess also plays a role in cognitive (brain) development: It provides a break from the structured classroom environment, allowing children to recharge and refocus when they return to the classroom. Studies have shown that children who have regular recess are better able to pay attention and perform better academically than children who do not have recess. Recess also provides an opportunity for children to explore and learn about their physical environment, which can help to develop their cognitive skills.
Physical development is one of the most obvious benefits of recess. Children need regular physical activity to maintain good health, and recess provides an opportunity for them to engage in physical activity during the school day. Studies have shown that children who have regular recess are more physically fit and have lower rates of obesity than children who do not have recess. Additionally, regular physical activity can improve children's overall health, including reducing their risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Overall, education research has shown that recess and active play are an important component of a well-rounded education. Play is how children learn best.
And the students and families we spoke to in our community all agree: recess is their #1 priority for playful learning.
Unfortunately, recess and play opportunities differ greatly from school to school and neighborhood to neighborhood: Though Rochester City School District policy requires daily recess and prohibits removing recess as punishment, not all schools or classrooms follow this policy. Beyond the classroom, it is not a given for all students in our community that they have safe places to play outside of school. In fact, just 25% of families we surveyed within the city limits of Rochester believed their students had great places to play in their neighborhood, compared to 65% of suburban families in Monroe County.
So when students don't have daily recess, they may not be playing (i.e., how they learn best) at all. This in turn leads to a wider achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots and developmental harm. In other words, recess is a social justice and equity issue.
One student leader we spoke with said it best: “Kids need to have recess. A lot of kids, if you don't turn in your homework, you don't get recess. But that's not fair. When you take away recess, you're taking away our education."
When you take away recess, you're taking away our education.
As the teachers and administrators of the Rochester City School District continue to look for ways to improve student achievement, it is important to remember the importance of recess and to make sure that all children have access to daily recess.
Learn more about the current state of play in the RCSD and the information sources we consulted in our PlayROCs the RCSD report. For more information on recess best practices more globally, we invite you to visit the Global Recess Alliance.