Kindergarten and first grade Schirle Sharks begin to finish the school's 2019 Turkey Trot (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Not all recess is created equal. That’s the conclusion of an Oregon State University professor’s recent study.
Assistant professor William Masey, who has a PhD in sport and exercise psychology, found the quality of recess for students influences behavior and social development. His study was published July 7 in the Journal of School Health and draws data from 25 schools across five states during the 2018-2019 school year.
Massey said as students return to in-person classes, school districts have the opportunity to rethink recess.
The quality of recess was measured using several factors. Did the playground offer physical and environmental safety? Could kids play? Were there opportunities for inclusion? Were there diverse options for play?
“I’ve been on playgrounds where the kids go outside, and it’s a parking lot with high fences, no play structure, no balls, no jump-ropes, no chalk — they’re literally outside, and there’s nothing to do,” Massey said said in a university news release about the study.
Adults, Massey said, also played a big part in recess quality.
“A lot of my previous research shows that adults are one of the most important entities on the playground,” Massey said in the statement. “One of the most important things is: Do adults model and encourage positive interactions with the students, and do they actually engage with the students themselves? The more adults engage with and play with students at recess, the more kids play, the more physical activity there is and the less conflict there is.”
Students with a high quality of recess, Massey said, saw positive outcomes in classroom behavior and self-control.
Based on the study’s findings, Massey said the data supports schools making recess a critical part of the day by investing time and resources including low-cost measures like having adults complete safety sweeps of the playground and setting up play equipment in advance.
Research contained in the study was completed prior to the pandemic but Massey said the information has only become more important as educators flirt with more time in class to catch kids up academically.
“I would argue that’s a huge mistake,” Massey said. “Kids don’t have the capacity to come in stressed and traumatized and out of the rhythm of school, and have all that dumped on them. These findings show that recess is not detrimental to what we want to see in the classroom, but rather, it’s complementary.”