We all know that our brains can’t concentrate for long periods of time at a stretch and that frequent breaks are, therefore, necessary. For children, this is even more so. I was reading an interesting article published in Return to Now (returntonow.net) titled Texas School Beats ADHD by Tripling Recess Time. The study was conducted with kindergarten and first graders. What they discovered was amazing.
‘Instead of 20 minutes of recess per day, Eagle Mountain Elementary Kindergartners and first graders now get an hour, broken up into four 15-minute breaks, in addition to lunch time. Their teachers say it’s totally transformed them. The kids are less fidgety, less distracted, more engaged in learning and make more eye contact.’
I was not surprised to learn this study was based on a similar pilot in Finland (of course) where the children have 15 minutes of unstructured play after every 45 minutes of instruction. The designer of the American program, called LiiNK, is kinesiologist Debbie Rhea from Texas Christian University. She said that while indoor play was better than nothing, outdoors is better. ‘Fresh air, natural light and vivid colours all have a big impact on brain function.’
Naturally the teachers were concerned about the children’s academic development given the lack of class time but were astounded to find that the kids ‘were way ahead of schedule’.
‘If you want a child to be attentive and stay on task – if you want them to encode the information you’re giving them in their memory – you’ve got to give them regular breaks.’ So says paediatrician Bob Murray, from Ohio State University, who helped write the American Paediatrics Association’s policy statement on recess. He says, ‘brain scans have shown kids learn better after a break for physical activity and unstructured play.’
I don’t think any of this is new apart from the length of time of those ‘play breaks’. Who would have thought? Just when you think you don’t have time to get through all that you have to get through in a day, now you have less time to do it in. According to this research, perhaps a lot of what we do is not all that necessary after all? What do you think? Food for thought over the Easter break.