Two Recesses for Frisco Kids
Two Recesses for Frisco Kids
Why this petition matters
We, parents and community members, are petitioning the Frisco ISD board and elementary leaders to formally adopt a standard of two recesses each day. Some minor adjustments to the current "Scheduled Brain Break" program would ensure that the long elementary school day is consistently broken up in a way that is much more developmentally appropriate and socially/emotionally/physically healthy, as the standard across all campuses. We request that those recesses each be a minimum of 15 minutes long, for a total at least 40 minutes. Scientific studies indicate that having more than one recess break in a long school day is critical to students' social/emotional health and increases academic success!
Currently Frisco elementary students all the way down to kindergarteners are given only one recess in a school day that is 7hrs 20min long (notably longer than the national average). Over the last two years, FISD has implemented a "brain break" program that was designed to give all children a second outdoor play break in the school day, but there has been great inconsistency across FISD in execution. Children at some FISD schools get a 15 minute outdoor free play break (essentially a second recess) in addition to their regular lunch time recess, while others are given a 10 minute break. Some are given an indoor break, sometimes in the form of quiet “free time” at their desks. Still others have brief 2-3 minute in-classroom breaks that are taken at irregular times throughout the day at the teacher's discretion, which is no different from how things were before implementation of the "brain break" program. An abundance of research has shown that outdoor unstructured play (play that is not directed/structured by an adult) is critical to children's mental health, and contributes heavily to social/emotional development, physical health, and academic learning. Because of the large quantity of clear scientific evidence supporting a return to more recess in schools, as previous generations enjoyed, we want FISD to ensure equality across elementary school campuses when it comes to outdoor unstructured play.
Some of the reasons why 2 recesses should be considered a non-negotiable need for all Frisco children:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics, the leading health authority for children in the U.S., stated in their published position on recess,
“In schools, the length specified for recess ranges widely, from 20 to 60 minutes per day. In other countries, such as Japan [and Finland], primary school-aged children have a 10- to 15-minute break every hour, and this is thought to reflect the fact that attention spans begin to wane after 40 to 50 minutes of intense instruction. On the basis of this premise, to maximize cognitive benefits, recess should be scheduled at regular intervals, providing children sufficient time to regain their focus before instruction continues.”
- Next door in Little Elm ISD, elementary school children get four 15-minute recesses per day. Since implementing the four recesses, they have seen reading and math STAAR scores have go up significantly compared to schools where students had only one recess. They have also seen a huge decrease in off-task behaviors, a shift in students from overweight or obese BMI into the healthy BMI category, and an astounding improvement in overall mood/happiness in students. https://liinkproject.tcu.edu/results/cognitive
- Here in our own district, in the 2018-2019 school year, FISD gathered survey data from 5 elementary schools who implemented a second 15-20 minute outdoor free play break in addition to the regular 30 minute recess, and compared that to 5 FISD “control” schools that kept just one recess plus the normal impromptu 2-3 minute indoor movement breaks at teacher's discretion. Teachers who took their students outside for that extra 15 minute break were 4 times more likely to report a decrease in off-task behavior, less than half as likely to report being behind in the curriculum (despite the extra time being taken away from instruction), and 11 times more likely to report that students refocused quickly after a transition. The vast majority of teachers also found that the extra break was greatly beneficial to their own stress level. And 88% of school counselors and nurses reported an improvement in student mental health and overall mood at their school over their the previous year. Parents were also surveyed--most parents said their child was less stressed or anxious, and on average there was a major improvement in their child's enthusiasm for school, as well as their energy level and ability to focus on homework after school. It is important to note that these results were seen with a 15-20 minute outdoor free play break. However, when the FISD leaders rolled the program out district wide, they changed the minimum time for these breaks to 10 minutes (despite extending the length of the school day by 10 minutes at the same time), and changed the outdoor element to “preferred” rather than required, without conducting any research to verify that the benefit to students would remain the same as what was observed in the pilot.
Every child in Frisco ISD should have equal access to the indisputable cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits of a second recess. We feel it is obvious that a productive recess should be at least 15 minutes long to effectively allow for decompressing from stress and getting fully absorbed in play before returning to the classroom for more instruction. There is ample scientific data in support of recesses that are 15+ minutes in length. Conversely, there are NO studies (conducted internally by FISD or externally by other researchers) that examine the effectiveness of a 10 minute recess, and it’s not hard to guess why. When an outdoor break is only 10 minutes long, students often have barely figured out what they are going to play and who they are going to play with before it's already time to start lining up to go back inside. Further, we have seen in our own district that teachers are much more likely to keep their class inside when the scheduled break is only 10 minutes long (versus 15 minutes long), rather than taking students outside to get fresh air and play more freely, even if they have the option. It seems their perception is often that the hassle of taking the kids outside for a 10 minute break just isn't worth it. Which is unfortunate, because science shows that an outdoor break is so much more beneficial to students than an indoor break--being out in the sun and feeling the breeze is a natural mood booster and stress reliever, and the outdoor setting also affords much more space for freedom of movement and is typically more amenable to creative, imaginative play.
In a survey of hundreds of Frisco elementary school parents, 96% of parents said they would like all FISD elementary schools to implement a schedule with a second outdoor free play break each day that is 15-20 minutes long. We are asking our district officials and our FISD board members to please honor the preference of the vast majority of parents and teachers in Frisco, and ensure that ALL of our children get a second recess that is long enough to have meaningful value. By signing this petition you add your voice in saying that FISD should require schools to give every elementary aged child at least 2 recesses every day, each a minimum of 15 minutes in duration.
Want to read the research for yourself? Below are some Great resources on the benefits of recess:
1. Jarrett OS (2013). A Research‐Based Case for Recess. https://www.playworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/US-play-coalition_Research-based-case-for-recess.pdf
2. Gray, Peter (2014). Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/give-childhood-back-to-children-if-we-want-our-offspring-to-have-happy-productive-and-moral-lives-we-9054433.html
3. Active Living Research (2015). Active Education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance. https://activelivingresearch.org/sites/default/files/ALR_Brief_ActiveEducation_Jan2015.pdf
4. American Academy of Pediatrics (2013). Policy Statement, “The Crucial Role of Recess in School,” Pediatrics, Vol 131, Issue 1. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/183
5. American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Policy update, “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children,” Pediatrics, Vol 142, Issue 3. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3/e20182058
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The Association Between School‐Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf
7. Most recent LiiNK program publication (2018). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2018.00009/full
(and more info available here: https://liinkproject.tcu.edu/results/
- FISD Elementary School officers and Board of Trustees