Recess Seems To Be All But Disappearing From Public Schools - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Recess Seems To Be All But Disappearing From Public Schools

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Over the years recess seems to be all but disappearing from public schools across the nation. Right here in Louisiana, state law requires that students kindergarten through eighth grade get at least 30 minutes for moderate to vigorous physical activity every day but does not dictate how those minutes should be used

The majority of that time ends up being part of a physical education class. This is something that one Lafayette parish mom says shouldn't happen. She's spent the last few months corresponding with the Lafayette Parish School Board, members of BESE, and other state officials, hoping to get this changed. She says she wants to see children use those 30 minutes a day to free their minds and just be kids. 

"That is where they are learning some of life's most important lessons like conflict resolution, problem-solving skills, creativity, the things that are really going to set them apart in life." 

Recess is an almost forgotten concept in some public schools but for parent/advocate Jeanne Pichoff a must for child development. 

"While there must be direct instruction time, it has to be balanced with opportunities for free play. That's where we're making a mistake." 

When her son was getting ready to enter kindergarten, Jeanne says she felt uneasy. After touring the Lafayette Parish school, Jeanne made the difficult decision to hold him back. 

"When I toured his school and understood the breakdown of his day there would no longer be a nap and only two ten minute recesses. I knew that he couldn't handle that, he wasn't ready for that. As are most active little boys and they're the ones struggling with that model." 

While academics are important, Jeanne says we're expecting too much instruction and not enough imagination. 

"Recess will better prepare their brains and bodies for learning and absorbing all of the academic information that we want them to get." 

And there's research to back up that statement. 

"It's very complex and there are no hard answers as to why but it's very clear that there is a strong effect," says researcher and professor Ken Burns.

Burns spends his days on this very topic, and over the years, he says they've seen an increase in test scores and student behavior when schools put more recess back into the school days. 

"In most cases, the school as a whole performs better; they are much more focused," says Burns of the research. "Their brains function better during those times; not only is it good for health, it also helps their brain work better."  

Earlier this year South Crowley Elementary started putting this research to use, incorporating an hour of student-directed learning. Basically, recess with a little instruction.

"Teachers are reporting they have fewer minutes of instruction lost and fewer behavior problems, fewer discipline referrals because students are able to work together and also work their problems out, " says April Mixon, Principal of South Crowley Elementary.

Mixon says the concern is that students will lose instructional time with more recess, but says they've figured out how to have the best of both worlds. 

"All of the teachers are outside with the students guiding them and working with them, some of the students are out here reading. So, some of these minutes are actually instructional minutes. We didn't lose any instructional minutes." 

For Mixon, this new hour has not only opened her children's imagination but has also changed the way they view each other. 

"It makes my heart full. The kids are playing together and having conversations that they weren't having before."

Acadia Parish officials say they are implementing this program in small doses. They say they hope to have the program in all of their schools within a few years. 

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