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Recess Is Not a Frill

The latest evidence of the pendulum swing in public schools in this country is bringing back or expanding recess ("A Favorite Subject Returns to Schools: Recess," The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 14). Once a staple of elementary schools, recess was severely cut back or eliminated in order to devote more time to focus on academic performance.

That was a mistake. It's only common sense that children need physical activity in the form of playtime.  Not only does it provide a healthy outlet for their energy, but it also allows them to develop leadership, social and negotiating skills. Perhaps that explains why 21 percent of school districts required recess daily for elementary school students in 2013-14, an increase from 16 percent with the requirement in 2006-07.

Finland, which is known for the quality of their public schools, has long required daily recess, even in the coldest weather.  I regularly pass by the Brentwood Science Magnet School in Los Angeles to see children joyously chasing each other and kicking a soccer ball.  I bet the outlet makes them better prepared to learn when they return to their classrooms.

Physical education classes play an important role in this regard, but they're no substitute for unstructured play.  I'm glad to see that recess is once again part of the elementary school day.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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