It’s not surprising for parents to feel worried when they hear the idea of schools quadrupling their children’s recess time to increase focus and creativity in the classroom. Eagles Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas certainly received this reaction from parents who expressed their concerns when this program was added to their children’s curriculum. Even teachers had their share of worry.
Donna McBride, a first-grade teacher at the school, shared her initial reaction and said, “There was a part of me that was very nervous about it. I was trying to wrap my head around my class going outside four times a day and still being able to teach those children all the things needed to learn.”
Implementation of the LiiNK Project
Debbie Rhea, a kinesiology professor at Texas Christian University, designed a project called LiiNK where the program boosts the amount of recess for the youngest students. It starts with kindergarten and first-grade students getting two 15-minute breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon for a total of one hour recess a day. It works because she said, “you start putting 15 minutes of what I call reboot into these kids every so often…and it gives the platform for them to be able to function at the best level.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports this statement in saying, “recess [is] ‘a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.’ Studies show it offers important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits, yet many schools are cutting down on breaks to squeeze in more lessons, which may be counterproductive.”
Rhea was inspired by Finland’s educational system where she spent a 6-week sabbatical and noticed that Finnish children received lots of school breaks, more specifically, 15 minutes of “unstructured outdoor play” every hour. As a result, they produced students who achieve some of the best scores in the world for reading, math, and science.
On the other hand, U.S schools often allow one 15-minute recess a day plus some in-class stretch time. Rhea explains, “That’s not enough for kids. They’re not built that way. [Recess] reboots the system so that when they go back in, they’re ready to learn, they’re focused.”
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Reactions from Teachers and Parents
Five months later after implementing the program, Eagle Mountains Elementary School reported tremendous improvements in children’s learning behavior. This program is especially beneficial to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
McBride details that her students are less fidgety and more focused. They’re also more attentive in the classroom, and they try to solve problems on their own before coming to the teacher to fix everything. Overall, she noticed fewer discipline issues.
Parents also witnessed the difference in their children. Amy Longspaugh noticed her 6-year old daughter Maribel become more independent and writes with more detail and creativity. She also made more friends as the kids mingle outside.
After seeing all the improvements, parents are now on board with the project, and even Bryan McLain, principal of the school deemed the results “impressive.” The results proved to be extremely effective that the project is now being adopted by other schools in Texas and has spread to other states in the US including Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Utah.
Additional Recess Time Helps Kids with ADHD
If anyone could benefit from this program significantly, it would be children who have ADHD. This disorder causes hyperactivity, which makes it difficult for them to pay attention in class. It interferes with their time at school but most especially, their life at home. (1)
Also, children with ADHD express impulsivity where they interrupt others, blurt out answers and have trouble waiting for their turn. Finally, inattentiveness is one of the biggest hurdles with ADHD. Simply adding more playtime “reboots” them to be more attentive and focused. It breaks up the physical and mental monotony of the classroom, allowing developing minds and bodies to constructively use their energies so that they’re more efficiently applied in learning. (2)
Now that we’re aware of the positive effects of additional recess time for our children, it’s time to spread the word. Share this article with a fellow parent and others who you think would greatly benefit from knowing about the LiiNK project. At the end of the day, we only want what’s best for our children, and this program certainly helps stir their education forward.
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