Educate Oklahoma: More Recess Per Day Gaining Steam In U.S.

Thursday, September 1st 2016, 11:35 pm
By: News On 6

Less work and more play is a growing trend in schools nationwide.

What some in the U.S. are just now doing, is relatively old news to countries like Finland.

Whether in the morning or afternoon, you're sure to see Finnish school children running, jumping or sledding across the playground.

It’s that kind of play that is a national requirement in Finland. Grade school students must have at least 60 minutes of recess a day.

Recess is so important in Finland, not much stops them from having it. Not the cold, not the snow and definitely not the ice on the soccer fields. The only restriction they really have is if it's five degree Fahrenheit or colder.

For elementary students in Oklahoma, only 30 minutes of physical activity per week is required.

"I do believe they need more recess. Just to have free choice on more recess time even within the classroom," said Charmin Holland, Duncan Elementary teacher.

Like Duncan Elementary Teacher Charmin Holland, 13 elementary schools in Texas also felt students need more recess, so they gave it to them. Four times a day, 15 minutes each time.

"It's bridging academic achievement with social emotional learning," said Dr. Debbie Rhea, TCU Professor.

Dr. Rhea created the initiative called Liink. She got the idea for Liink from Finland in 2012.

"One of the guys over there actually said, ‘You know we took what ya'll [sic] had in the 60's and we just kept doing it and ya'll [sic] went a different direction,’" said Dr. Rhea.

Now, her direction is two-fold, teaching traits like responsibility and empathy as everyday curriculum.

"We're seeing a society right now that is lacking empathy," said Dr. Rhea

Then, the teachers get out of the way of the students’ play.

"If you look around in any school, whether it's K-12th grade, most of it is indoors, so there's no socialization. What recess is doing and the character piece is doing is bringing socialization back to kids," said Dr. Rhea.

So far, students are already benefiting. Reading scores have increased and elementary students are more attentive throughout the entire day.

Now, even one Oklahoma school is getting in on the action.

Chattanooga Elementary has switched from one 30-minute recess a day, to the same, four 15-minute recess structure as Finland.

Having recess four times a day is likely music to the ears of Holland.

“Children need that free play to go and create their own play, to use their imaginations," said Holland. 

"It really does change the culture of the child to be able to really allow them to start making decisions on their own when they're young," said Dr. Rhea, “this is going to bring a culture of resilience again."

Dr. Rhea and her team are still collecting data.

Schools agree to give the program three years, and it starts in kindergarten and first grade. The first school to ever use Liink is now in its second year.

Click here for more information on Liink