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CDC, SHAPE America Provide Schools Strategies for Successful Recess

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Administrators looking to add recess to their school's schedule have some new resources to help make that happen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, have released two guidance documents entitled, "Strategies for Recess in Schools" and "Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice."

Both the CDC and SHAPE America recommend that students in elementary school have 20 minutes of daily recess, but sometimes schools struggle with figuring out how to fit that time into an already packed schedule.

The 2016 Shape of the Nation report found that only eight states require recess.

"It doesn't mean that people aren't having recess," said Michelle Carter, a senior program manager with SHAPE America. "It means that they have the option to where if they feel like they need to make more time within their school day, recess can be on the chopping block. It can be eliminated altogether or shortened, and we don't want that."

Carter said the guidance documents can be used as advocacy tools to promote recess and as a means to improve recess for schools that already offer it.

In addition to the guidance documents, the CDC and SHAPE America are also providing a customizable, recess-planning template to help schools write a recess plan.

"It highlights the importance of it," said Carter. "We value recess. It's important to us, and because it's important to us we do have a written plan. We want children to be physically active, and so we have this plan in place to encourage that and to promote physical activity."

The Strategies for Recess in Schools provides several recommendations, including:

  • Physical education should not be replaced by recess, and recess should not be used to meet time requirements for P.E.
  • Recess should not be taken away for disciplinary reasons or due to poor academic performance.
  • Physical activity should not be used as punishment during recess.
  • Recess should be held before lunch.

The "Strategies for Recess in Schools" document also recommends that recess go beyond the elementary years to include middle and high school.

"It's for all K-12 students, not just elementary," said Carter. "It may not be the way that it is in elementary school, but it's still important for older children to have that time to be physically active throughout the day."

It lists "physical activity during exploratory programs, midmorning breaks, and lunchtime intramural activities, or as part of physical activity clubs," as forms of recess for older students.

The document includes 19 evidence-based strategies to make recess work and links increased physical activity to improved academics. "Recess Planning in Schools" acts as a companion piece and helps schools figure out concrete ways to implement the strategies.

A group that included nearly 30 expert researchers put the strategies together. The strategies were also reviewed by more than 50 P.E. teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders, including classroom teachers.


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