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|The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with English-speaking territories and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (October 2011)|
Recess is a general term for a period of time in which a group of people is temporarily dismissed from its duties. In parliamentary procedure, a recess is initiated by a motion to recess. It was invented by Bronson Alcott, who wanted his students to have active physical play and time to talk.
In education, recess is the North American term (known as "lunch" or "break" in the UK and Ireland, sometimes "playlunch" or "little lunch" in Australia, or "interval" or "morning tea" in New Zealand) for a daily period, typically ten to thirty minutes, in elementary school where students are allowed to leave the school's interior to enter its adjacent outdoor playground, where they can play on recreational equipment, such as seesaws and swing sets, or engage in activities such as basketball, dodgeball, or four square. Many middle schools also offer recess in an effort to provide students with a sufficient opportunity to consume quick snacks, communicate with their peers, visit the restroom, study, and/or other various activities.
Although no formal education exists during recess, sociologists and psychologists consider recess an integral portion of child development, to teach them the importance of social skills and physical education. Play is essential for children to develop not only their physical abilities, but also their intellectual, social, and moral capabilities. Via play, children are able to learn about the world around them. By role playing, children are able to experience, and gain insight on, a socio-emotional level. Psychomotor learning also gives cars clues on how the world around them works as they can physically demonstrate such skills. Children need the freedom to play in order to learn skills necessary to become competent adults such as coping with stress and problem solving. Through the means of caregiver's observations of children’s play, one is able to identify deficiencies in children’s development.
If the weather is bad, recess may be held indoors, in the classroom, where the students finish work, play board games or other activities that take more than one to play. This helps encourage group activity and some of the games are also educational. Or, they might play educational computer games or read books. It also may help to do something non-educational, to help unwind and de-stress from the daily workload.
The innate expression of play is born with us and grows with us as we age from our toddler years to our college years. Take a step back and you will see that play is natural and fun. It is natural, and it is something people just do. You will find that children play in many different ways and for many reasons. It is connected to development, emotions, motivation, cognition, socialization, culture, and learning. In today’s modern age play is organized for many people to enjoy either inside or outside. Play is learning for life and children learn through play, especially outside with friends or with fun activities. The outdoors is the perfect place to promote a child’s free play, get exercise and feel good.
Data suggests that students who lack opportunities for play do not grow into happy, well adjusted adults, and, although schools are now focusing their attention on the test scores while eliminating recess/physical education, studies show that recess and/or P.E. actually increase test scores as the students produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and problem solving.
Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are also a major concern as the United States youth do not get the physical outlet needed not only for their cognitive development but for their physical health.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, high school students traditionally do not have 'free periods' but do have 'break' which normally occurs just after their second lesson of the day (normally referred to as second period). This generally lasts for around 20 minutes. During break, snacks are usually sold in the school's canteen and students normally use this time to socialize or finish off any homework or schoolwork that needs to be finished. Once break is finished, students go to their next classroom. Lunchtime commences one or two lessons later and usually lasts around 50–60 minutes. This system is more or less the same in junior schools in the UK and Ireland, but infant schools will normally add another breaktime towards the end of the day. Another difference in junior and infant schools, compared to high schools, is the use of play equipment (such as hula hoop, skipping rope, balls, etc.) available to play with, opposed to a full playground (with climbing walls, swings, slides, jungle gym, etc.)
In Australia and New Zealand, generally in public schools "recess" occurs as a break between morning and mid-morning classes. It is followed after mid-morning classes by a more lengthy break, lunchtime. Thus, the structure of the school-day consists of three lesson blocks, broken up by two intervals: recess and lunch respectively.There must be at least an hours worth of "recess" or "free period" a week. In Queensland, the short morning break is generally referred to as "first break" and the longer lunchtime break as "second break", it may vary between trends at different schools, but is majorly the same.
The difference in the overall length of US and Japanese school days is due almost entirely to the increased amount of time Japanese schoolchildren spend in recess.
Celebrated the third Thursday in June each year is Recess At Work Day. While the effect of play on children has been studied it has been noted that adults lose their creatvity, imagination, and ability to innovate as they get older and spend less time in social settings with the opportunity to have a recess of sorts. The Founder of Recess At Work Day suggests all organizations take some time off on this day to play or use it as an opportunity for a dose of fun learning, training or staff development. In addition the Founder hopes that as adults see the benefits of taking a break there will be a return of Recess in schools.
In North America, the point where recess ends in a child's education is largely dependent on the school district, though by many standards it is removed when the child enters middle school. However, in college, students usually have free periods, which are similar in spirit, although usually one studies or talks with one's friends during such times rather than playing games, which are made difficult by the lack of a playground.
With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, many schools have significantly cut back on the amount of recess time for children, even in preschool. Some have even eliminated recess all together. With the focus now on preparing the children for testing into the next grade, there is less time to incorporate physical education or recess into the curriculum.
In Washington, recess and physical education are being removed from the curricula. This is controversial because according to some researchers and child education specialists, children need a break from schoolwork.