I may no longer be able to recite the Gettysburg Address from memory and I doubt I still remember the finer details of Lewis and Clark’s great expedition, but one important lesson I do remember from my elementary school days is the proper strategy for picking team members for a game of Red Rover. And I bet I’m not the only one! Recess was an important part of my school day not only because I got to spend time having fun with my friends, but also because it allowed me to get outside and, though I was unaware of it at the time, experience the many benefits of physical activity. For that very reason, today some Chicago public schools, starting at the preschool level, are working towards re-introducing recess into their school day.
Over a decade ago, Chicago public schools removed recess from their day, in favor of a 20-minute lunch period for students and lunch at the end of the day for teachers. Now, however, along with the Chicago Department of Public Health’s push to have students spend less time in front of a screen and more time being active, parents and advocacy groups are working to include a 90-minute recess period in students’ days. Starting in November, only 60 minutes or less out of the school day can be spent on computers or watching TV, while at least 60 minutes will be spent in physical activity.
At the moment, this push for a longer recess period is only occurring at the preschool level. However, the hope is that encouraging children to be active early on will have a positive impact later in students’ lives. Like so many other areas across the country, Chicago is a city riddled with childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases, and parents and teachers alike hope that measures taken now will help reinforce and promote healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to lengthening recess, many schools will not serve milk that has more than a 1% fat content and will only serve 100% juice.
Although not every school or district may be too keen on the idea of taking away from active learning time, this incentive is something that schools should seriously consider. In light of the obesity epidemic troubling Americans of all ages, schools need to start teaching healthy lifestyle choices to their students, and promoting more physical activity during recess is a great place to start. Not only will students get moving, reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, but also they’ll have fun and expand upon their social skills in doing so.