Parents for Longer Recess in Pearland ISD Elementary Schools
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Currently Pearland ISD (“PISD”) elementary school students from Kindergarten through Fourth grade, receive only Fifteen (15) minutes of recess time in a Seven-hour school day. Students often receive even less than that because recess is routinely used as a bargaining tool for poor behavior and is taken away when students misbehave. Research has shown that unstructured play time has a positive impact on children’s overall physical and emotional well-being and increases concentration and academic performance. Therefore, it is the objective of this petition to request that the PISD elementary schools increase the recess period to at least one guaranteed Thirty-minute recess, one guaranteed Fifteen-minute recess, and one discretionary Fifteen-minute recess period.
Support for longer recess period
In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report stating:
“Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.…Recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” 
Today’s kids are under so much pressure to perform, they have very little time to just be kids. With nightly homework assignments and many extra-curricular activities and sports, children are left with almost no free time. Moreover, in today’s technology-filled world, as children are spending more time on their screens, most kids’ personal interactions with peers occur only at school. Unfortunately, however, during the Seven-hour school day, children are continuously told to sit in place, be quiet, and follow the structured curriculum. Even at lunch and in the hallways, they are to remain quiet or be penalized. Increasing the recess time would allow children to practice and learn important social skills such as how to get along, negotiate, make and follow each other’s rules, start a conversation with another, work out disagreements, stick up for a friend, and fall down and get back up again. They learn conflict resolution, self-discipline, determination, compromise and teamwork. If today’s elementary students get the opportunity to learn these skills adequately, they will be better equipped to handle future problems, disputes, and disagreement in Junior high and high school.
There is a misguided assumption that less recess time leads to increased academic performance. Indeed, no research supports the notion that longer classroom time leads to better test scores. There is, however, ample evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. Research shows that when children have regular intervals of unstructured free time during the school day, they are less fidgety and more on task; they have improved memory and more focused attention; and they develop more brain connections.
In addition, daily recess periods of twenty-minutes or more in length are associated with improved behavior in the classroom. Yet, all too often recess time is reduced or taken away as punishment for behavior problems. Perhaps the children who get into trouble for being disruptive or failing to sit still in one place, simply need a break to burn off the enormous amount of energy that most Five to Ten-year olds have.
As the occurrence of childhood obesity, diabetes, and depression reach alarming levels, physical activity is of utmost importance to the overall health and well-being of today’s children. A longer recess period would provide children with additional physical activities such as running, climbing, and jumping, preferably outdoors, under the sun, and in the fresh air. While Physical Education classes do their part in keeping kids active, research has shown that children are more likely to engage in physical activity when it is unstructured and self-directed. On its own, recess cannot reverse the childhood obesity trend, but it can contribute to promoting the habit of an active lifestyle which is a critical component of good health.
Additionally, numerous studies have found that unstructured, imaginative free play increases the size of the prefrontal cortex, making the brain more efficient at making plans, solving problems, and regulating and identifying emotions, all of which contribute to children’s mental health and well-being.
In summary, we ask the PISD Board of Trustees to view recess as a valuable component of our children’s academic development and consider a minimum of one guaranteed Thirty-minute recess, one guaranteed Fifteen-minute recess, and one discretionary Fifteen-minute recess period. We also request that recess not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.
 American Academy of pediatrics (AAP). The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools. Pediatrics, Vol. 131, No. 1, January 1, 2013, pp. 183-188. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/183.full
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