A Texas school has decided to get creative and do an experiment. About five months ago, they took a look at their teaching methods and noticed that their students were prone to fidgeting in class and lacked the focus they needed to learn. Instead of hunkering down and providing more intensive lessons, they did the opposite: they sent the kids outside to play.
Four times a day, kindergarten and first graders at Eagle Mountain Elementary in Ft. Worth are given 15 minute breaks from their lessons and sent to recess. For a combined 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 after lunch, students are able to take a much-needed break from their studies (and more importantly from being confined to a chair) and get outside for some open play. Not only are they burning off the energy that young children are famous for, but they are communicating with peers, using their imaginations, and simply recuperating from learning.
Everybody is benefitting from this amazing new structure, according to Today.com. While the teachers were anxious at first, due to a fear they would lose important teaching time that would not allow for adequate coverage of required material, they are seeing results they never expected. Children are returning to the classroom with energy to learn. Having expelled their nervous energy outside, students can focus without fidgeting, follow directions easier and even experience less disciplinary problems.
Even parents are reaping the benefits of more play time in school. They say their kids are coming home with more friends since they actually have time to make them with more recess. Their students are being more creative, too.
But the most important people in this experiment have always been the students, who are able to look forward to school and more importantly their education, with excitement instead of loathing. Recess may be what they look forward to at the start of the day, but it’s also the catalyst that will change their perception of learning from boring and restrictive, to interactive and fun.
Let’s be honest and admit that America has been a little behind on the times when it comes to students having more time to play at school. According to this article by The Atlantic, Finland has been balancing work and play in school since the 1960’s. They take recess breaks after every 45 minutes of learning to let the kids play outside, rain or shine. It’s true that many other countries delay the start of formal education later than the United States (where we have benchmarks quite early on), but it seems they are on to something when it comes to teaching their children better life balance.
Even more crucial: playing isn’t without purpose. While it’s not a Common Core Standard, playing is vital to our kids emotional development. Through play, they learn to control emotions, how to pay attention, listen and a host of other necessary social behaviors. Giving them more time to do it at school, where they are already learning, just makes sense. Like the teachers found at Eagle Mountain Elementary, the minuscule reduction in teaching time more than pays for itself, when they get enthusiastic students in return.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he wrote, “It’s a happy talent to know how to play.”
If you’re a parent who sees value in the methods at Eagle Mountain Elementary, then visit the LiiNK Project website to get more information.