What do kids need?
When do they need it?
It's seems pretty obvious, at least once you start thinking about what it's like to be a kid (or human): You're more ready to work after a break.
And so something called The LiiNK Project has proven. The Texas-based non-profit started out with a pilot program at the Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth where kids were given four 15-minute recesses a day -- three times' more recess than they used to get.
Last year the Today Show interviewed a teacher at the school, Donna McBride, who said that while she was originally nervous about taking so much time out for free play, now she's sold:
Her students are less fidgety and more focused, she said. They listen more attentively, follow directions and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything. There are fewer discipline issues.
“We’re seeing really good results,” she noted.
Parents are seeing them, too. Amy Longspaugh noticed her 6-year-old daughter Maribel, who is in McBride’s class, has become more independent and writes with more detail and creativity. Maribel has also made more friends as the kids mingle outside.
“It is what they look forward to every day,” Longspaugh said.
The creator of this initiative, Debbie Rhea, is a kinesiology professor at Texas Christian University. She was inspired by Finland, where kids don't even start formal education till age 7, and continue to spend far more of their day playing even once they do. Finland's test scores are phenomenal.
Rhea, the researcher, is conducting the study in 20 schools — 19 of which are in Texas. The Texas schools have shown a 2 to 3 percent increase in students’ math and reading scores...
Beyond grades and test scores, however, Rhea says the recess program’s results are consistent across all schools.
“We always see somewhere between 28 and 30 percent decrease in off-task behaviors, which defines as fidgeting, moving around the room, or staring off into space,” she says. “And disruptive and aggressive behaviors are almost not seen at all anymore.”
The school district Let Grow is working closely with -- Patchogue-Medford on Long Island -- has started a before-school "Play Club" where kids get an hour of running around and having a great time. I visited and was moved to tears, the kids were so happy. The Superintendent, Michael Hynes, has also doubled recess time.
Result? Attendance is up, so is attention, and all seven elementary schools in the district are ecstatic.
But not as ecstatic as the kids. - L.