The Preservation of a Childhood Jewel

by Ander Ochoa, staff writer

May 2016 (Volume 66, Issue 4)

One of the well-known patterns of life sees humans lose a so-called “childhood innocence” as they grow into more mature, knowing, seasoned beings. As they age, people are sobered up by the often harsh realities of the real world–namely taxes and the plague–and consequently, the happy-go-lucky mindset that they own as two-, five-, and ten-year-olds disintegrates.

Despite the recognition that this loss of innocence receives, naiveté is not the only childhood treasure that is sacrificed in the process of becoming an adult. There is another aspect of infancy that disappears, an aspect which, exaggeration aside, is as integral to childhood as the aforementioned innocence: recess.

For many children, the end of elementary school marks the close of an illustrious career of schoolyard basketball, tag, and four square. No more will these kids experience the happiness that recess injects into a school day; no more will they be invigorated by physical activity; no more will they return to class feeling refreshed. Instead, they will journey into the hostile, recess-less dungeon of secondary education.

This needs to change.

Recess should be a part of the daily high school schedule. Why? First off, because of the raw, simple pleasure that it will bring to students. Regardless of what one chooses to do during recess, it will be a fun experience: those who participate in a pickup sport will taste the small euphoric high that is triggered by exercise, and those who sit and socialize will be able to enjoy their friends’ company.

Second, because of the health-related benefits of recess. The exercise and fresh air that students will get during this half-hour of free time will help them maintain a body that, while not as fit as that of a marathon runner nor as powerful as that of an olympic weightlifter, is appropriately healthy.

Third–and this may interest teachers quite a bit–because recess will sharpen the focus that students exhibit in class. This may sound counterintuitive (if anything, wouldn’t a non-academic activity be a distracting force?), but the reality is that the absence of leisure time hampers concentration. The current one-class-after-another schedule often causes students to feel sluggish and academically-saturated, and this, in turn, reduces their motivation to focus. Recess will break this monotony and help students unwind, thereby making higher levels of engagement possible.

As can only be expected, those who are against the idea of integrating recess into the school day may present a few arguments against it. They may claim that it is not the school’s responsibility to offer recess, as students have more than enough time after school ends to do anything that they would do during recess. Well, this is not necessarily true. Many students’ afternoons are consumed by affairs such as homework, and do not hold as much free time as one would think.

Those who are against recess may also claim that the mandatory Wellness course already fulfills the physical and mental well-being purposes that recess would. This, like the previous anti-recess contention, is untrue. In the first place, students can only enjoy the benefits of Wellness for one semester per year, whereas they would be able to appreciate those of recess on a daily basis. In addition, Wellness has a significant classroom-based component, during which the course takes on the form of a regular academic class and does not offer any of the physical benefits of recess.

Finally, those who are against recess may raise concerns about the fact that recess will elongate the school day, leaving teachers with less time to attend to important after-school matters such as faculty meetings and assignment-grading. However, this elongation of the school day is not the problem that it seems to be. While recess will lengthen the school day, it will also behave as a free period during which teachers can work on their after-school tasks are attend the Common Planning Time meetings they currently have only Friday mornings. So, in truth, teachers will not be losing time.

Innocence, as many have discovered through experience, must be let go of. The natural course of life calls for this purity to be given up, and all that humans can do is heed and obey the call. But when it comes to recess, things are different. Recess should be held on to with a tight grip, and its shining benefits–happiness, health, and focus–should be milked dry.

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