Prevent Bullying? Try Recess

It sounds way too simple.  But a new study says recess -- when organized right -- can reduce bullying, while making students feel safer and learn better in school, according to Emma Brown of The Washington Post.

We're not talking free-for-all, but recess using coaches "who introduce and oversee games and activities that are meant to be vigorous, fun and inclusive."  She cites Playworks, a national nonprofit that runs recess programs in low-income schools, who use Americorps volunteers as the coaches. They teach kids to cheer each other on and to resolve their disputes amicably and fairly, Brown writes.

Playworks coaches are on duty in nearly two dozen cities, she notes.

Some pediatricians feel recess is just as important as math and language arts. Time magazine reported last year that "Pediatricians. . . support the importance of having a scheduled break in the school day."

“Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at the Ohio State University who is a co-author of the study statement, told Bonnie Rochman. “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”

Rochman reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) started studying recess to assess its importance and came away with the information that it's very needed in the school day.  

“We came to the realization that it really affects social, emotional and cognitive development in a much deeper way than we’d expected,” Murray told Rochman. “It helps children practice conflict resolution if we allow them unstructured play, and it lets them come back to class more ready to learn and less fidgety.”

Playworks says at its Website that its program, as well as recess in general, can "reinforce positive behavior during recess (96%), help students stay out of trouble (91%), and provide positive experiences for students during recess (99%)." 

Experts agree that, without recess, children's academic performance -- and behavior -- may suffer.


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