Who Loves Recess?

by Michael Porter
If you ask any student what their favorite part of the school day is, most likely they will answer “recess.”
While there may be a few outliers who will select math or reading as their favorite, the popularity of recess is widespread and well-known.
But is recess really necessary? Should time that could be spent on academics be given to play time?
“Absolutely,” says Tonya Elstein, Director of Education. “Children who play actually have more active brains which helps them excel in the academic areas. Recess is where children develop life skills such as problem solving, collaboration, conflict resolution, creativity, confidence, empathy, negotiation, and language.”
According the the journal Pediatrics: Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. 

Even as adults, we all appreciate a short “brain break” in the middle of the work day just to allow time to relax and re-focus on the tasks at hand.
At JCDS, students in every grade are provided with at least 20 minutes of recess per day, every day. Our younger students get one hour. This is unstructured time where students are free to choose an activity that pleases them. The youngest students enjoy riding the 3- and 4-wheeled vehicles around the Green Circle, climbing the rope ladder, going down the slide, or spinning on the seat spinner. This gives them an opportunity to burn off some of their seemingly limitless energy, and well as refine their gross motor skills.
The students in intermediate grades generally have recess on the large playground. They enjoy the monkey bars, the slide, and the upper deck. Sometimes students use the time to converse with their peers on the Buddy Bench or just take a long walk around the area. Almost always, there is a ball or two being tossed or kicked into the air.
The older students love to spread out across the big field, which provides ample space for a pickup game of soccer. Othertimes, the parkour equipment is more appealing. 
“All day you’re learning academics, and you’re just sitting in a chair,” said 6th grader Addison. “So you have to get up and exercise, or else your body can get some cricks.”

Exploratory Play
Students in early learning enjoy exploratory play as a part of their curriculum. Exploratory play takes on a different, important role in a child’s education. Utilizing our outdoor Learning Scape, the little ones use their imaginations to become architects in the sandbox, become chefs in the outdoor kitchen, assume a role on the stage, or examine nature. 
“Exploratory play includes all the sensory play with water, sand, and loose parts,” said Vallis Henley, Pre-K 4 teacher. “There are lots of opportunities for nature exploration, such as collecting leaves or acorns.”
As the saying goes, “Play is the highest form of research.”

Physical Education
PE differs from recess in that it is a structured activity led by an adult. PE is about learning things like sports skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and personal fitness. PE is a class.

Our three PE specialists at JCDS work with all grade levels, using various games and activities that are engaging and age-appropriate.
In addition, the early learning students participate in movement classes every cycle, taught by Dance Specialist Hannah Tucker. Our young ones develop coordination, motor skills, and full body awareness through music and dance exploration.
"Moving and grooving with our Pre-K students brings me so much joy," said Ms. Tucker. "We always leave the class smiling."
The students may just look like they’re having fun, but at JCDS, playing is learning.