Thursday, August 30, 2012

The innovative new evidence-based idea also known as recess

The Daily Iowan reports that some Iowa City teachers are now giving their students one-minute “brain breaks” to “temporarily step away from class work and engage in short exercises so they will, hopefully, return to schoolwork with greater energy and focus.”
The breaks focus on physical activity and can include anything from making “lazy eights” with fingers, dancing, and even the timeless challenge of patting the head and rubbing the stomach at the same time.

Steve Murley, the superintendent of the Iowa City School District, believes that the use of brain breaks will continue to expand and build.

“Our goal is to get kids up and active while learning,” he said. “It’s no longer the belief that when kids have extra energy to let them burn it off, but a research-based program that shows how physical education can help them learn because it’s stimulating blood flow to the brain.”
Wait – isn’t this the same district that just a couple of years ago cut recess time so it could increase instructional minutes?
“Brain breaks are just part of the package, but if schools paid attention and revamped their thinking, they’d get exercise and play back into their kids’ lives,” [Harvard professor John] Ratey wrote in an email. “The first thing that happens is an almost immediate drop in discipline problems, a decrease in bullying, then an increase in attendance and an improvement on test scores and grades. All in all, it’s the best thing that can be done to improve our children’s lives.”
But wait – after cutting recess time, didn’t our district also pour money and resources into behavior management, discipline, and anti-bullying programs?

I sometimes wonder whether they’d give the kids any recess at all if it didn’t raise test scores. (According to the article, our physical education coordinator’s “long-term goal is for the use of breaks to be expanded throughout Iowa City schools and implemented before the Iowa Assessment standardized tests.”) But if research about test scores is what it takes to impress our school administrators, why don’t they listen to people like Ratey and expand recess instead of cutting it? And just think how high test scores might go if we strung together twenty-five or thirty of those brain breaks and called it “lunch”!

Related post here.


David said...

Slate has a very interesting recent article on the re-emergence of recess -- and how principals don't know what to do with it.

Chris said...

Thanks, David -- That's a great article. Here's the clickable link.