What does the word ‘learn’ really mean? We often hear it used by school educators, parents and even politicians, but the real meaning is not so obvious. Learning at school involves a lot more than we may traditionally think; immediately when we hear the word we rewind our memory to our earlier school days where we sat in a classroom learning to read, write and work with numbers. While all are fundamental to children development, the other side of the learning equation is often overlooked – the value of recess and play at school.
Increasing or decreasing play time at schools is a discussion that has become increasingly popular amongst educators throughout the globe.
Recess is a lot more than just a free break for kids to have fun and unwind. The scheduled, unstructured play time allows children to develop necessary life skills – cognitive, social, language, emotional and physical skills. Whether playing on the school playground, playing football or even chatting with class mates, research suggests that this recess time helps children behave and perform academically better in class and develop skills that can’t be taught in the formal classroom setting. According to “The State of Play” (source) 2009 survey by Gallup for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; ‘Principals overwhelmingly believe recess has a positive impact not only on the development of students’ social skills, but also on achievement and learning in the classroom’
Over the past couple of decades, many schools in the United States have cut down recess time for their students. Some schools, however, believe that this is doing more harm than good to student’s education and have introduced a day schedule that has up to 4 separate outside breaks per day. Some of these schools are working under the direction of a new program, called LiiNK project and are implementing steps to improve their education quality through health. The program plans to strengthen the school system through; “higher expectations of social responsibility; more time to be playful and creative in order to learn more effectively when in the classroom; fewer standardized tests; and less time in a classroom setting (although no less rigour of content), which will create more passion in students to learn and less burnout as a result of too much time in school.” (source)
Eagle Elementary School, Fort Worth USA reports an interesting result after giving students four 15-minute recess breaks a day. Initially, concerns were raised about fitting all learning content into the class time, however this became achievable with kids being more attentive. First grade teachers Donna McBride and Caty Wells say they’ve seen a transformation in their kids – “they’re less distracted, they make more eye contact, and they tattle less”. (source)
This example shows us another reason why play is so important for children at schools. With the rising tide of technology it is becoming more important that we provide school students with the correct play facilities to ensure they get adequate exercise and play. Play areas are a perfect location at school to provide a safe and supervised area for children to play.
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