Cumberland Times-News

February 11, 2013

Play time

Task force to determine the value of school recess


Cumberland Times-News

— It is truthfully said that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy ... and Jill a dull girl.

We reported recently that legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a task force that would study the need for recess in schools.

The task force would consist of legislators, educators and “several other members” who would examine the health and academic benefits of recess and recommend the time of day that schools should allocate to recess.

An entire year, starting from this July 1, has been allocated for the task force to perform its studies.

Those of you who are older may be wondering — as did we — what this is all about.

“Recess?” you may well be asking. “You mean they don’t still have recess in schools? We had recess when I was in school. We needed it, and it was good for us.”

If this isn’t “design by committee,” we don’t know what is. It shouldn’t take a group of “several members” a year to determine the benefits of something that once was deemed necessary and taken for granted.

Were we put in charge of this research, we would do what seems to be the obvious: We would ask a few older folks if they remember having recess in school, and they most likely would answer “Yes.”

Then we would ask if recess did them any good, and the answer would probably go something like this: “Of course, it did. It gave us a break from class, during which we could go outside to let off steam and get some fresh air. We got to know other kids and make new friends.”

They may even add that by the time recess was over, they were ready to go inside and get back to work. (Not everyone felt like that, of course; some of us would just as soon have stayed outside to play for a while longer.)

The physical benefits of recess should be clear, when you consider the increasing obesity rate of youths who these days tend to stay inside playing video games or sending text messages instead of remaining outside to play whenever they can and for as long as possible.

Even after we become adults, and even if we love what we do for a living, we still need to take a break from it now and then to do something that’s fun — or just to relax.

This refreshes us and relieves stress, which has both physical and psychological benefits. Too many adults seem unable to do this, and it often is reflected by their blood pressure.

Going to school involves a variety of learning processes, and that certainly includes recess. Recess gives youngsters a chance to hone their social skills and teaches them the value of “letting off steam” so they can get back to the job at hand in a better frame of mind and body.