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Friday Reading: School Health Suggestions and the Point of Recess

Wanted to point you to a few school health/physical activity stories that we're featuring on edweek.org today:

First, my colleague Nirvi Shah has a great story about a meeting between Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign, and the Trust for America's Health this week.

The groups met with the two federal officials to offer a few recommendations on how to improve the mental and physical well-being of students, which they suggested may help shrink achievement gaps.

Among their recommendations:

• Schools should be encouraged to engage parents around health and wellness issues.

• The U.S. Department of Education should incorporate health measures into the Blue Ribbon Schools program.

• The National Prevention Council should explore the role that schools can play in supporting students' health and wellness.

That last recommendation aligns with the Institute of Medicine report released earlier this week suggesting that schools should become a focal point in preventing the spread of obesity in the United States.

From the opinion side of things, today's Commentary compares the elimination of recess to the Aesop fable, "The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs."

The two authors argue that, based on research, limiting or eliminating "the unstructured play afforded by a recess period may detract from students' ability to focus on the very subjects we use to measure success."

Previous studies have found that students with a daily 15-minute recess period tend to have improved classroom behavior.

"The opportunity to coalesce around the simple fact that children benefit from playing represents a pathway for communities to build bridges across political, socioeconomic, and professional divides," the two Commentary authors write.

But if schools continue chopping down recess in favor of more academic time, the authors warn of a shortsighted decision with negative long-term implications.

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