Seeking to increase instructional time for students, many schools and school districts are considering lengthening the school day and year. In New Jersey, for example, Governor Chris Christie has asked for $5 million in an effort to do just that.
Adding to the typical 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day and 180-day school year may not seem too unreasonable, but consider this: Finnish 1st-graders are at school only 4.5 hours per day. And of those 4.5 hours, only three of them are spent in the classroom, leaving the remaining 1.5 hours for recess. Yes, that’s right, recess.
According to the article, Finland’s Latest Export: A Novel Approach to Recess,” even with time for unstructured play Finnish students have continued to meet and surpass the required scores on assessments for math, reading and science.
The reasoning behind a shorter school day with generous recess time: “Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button.”
As we know, research shows that when kids exercise it improves their concentration and ability to absorb new information. It is proven that exercise can actually increase student performance in the classroom.
As states across America continue to evaluate the school day, perhaps they will consider the benefits of unstructured play and make time for student to “reset” with recess.