The Washington state legislature is considering a bill this session about school recess. Senate Bill 5257 (and companion House Bill 1504) would provide a minimum requirement for elementary school recess minutes and discourage withholding recess, as well as encourage schools to provide breaks for middle and high school students.
During several public hearings, students have provided testimony in support of these recess bills. We interviewed three of those advocates:
Maiya Burton Cahn is a fourth-grader at Greenwood Elementary in Seattle.
Owen Lindeloff is a seventh-grader at Hamilton International Middle School in Seattle.
Akshay Tandon is an 11th-grader at Issaquah High School.
Why do you think recess is important for students?
Maiya: Recess is important because it gives you a chance to take your mind off schoolwork and get your wiggles out. It gives you time to see your friends and talk or play with them. It can help kids feel less forced to learn and like they have a choice to learn because they get a break and aren’t learning the whole entire day. If kids are doing something in class that they are struggling with, recess can give them a chance to have a mind break so they don’t have to think about that all day. It gives you a chance to be creative with your friends and make up games.
Owen: Recess is important because it gets out their energy, and if students are high on energy, then they do not learn as well. After recess, kids feel happy and ready to learn again instead of tired of learning. During recess, kids feel relaxed and do not think about the stress of schoolwork. It is important for kids to feel this way during the day in school. Recess also helps them cause fewer disturbances, which makes it easier for the teachers to teach.
Akshay: Recess is important to students because it serves as a break from classroom learning. It is very rare that anyone can sit for six hours straight and continue to learn in an attentive manner. Research shows that recess helps students behave and learn better. Not only are students getting a needed break, but they come back readier to learn and in a better state than before. There are many skills and life lessons that children learn during recess. For example, teamwork, communication, problem-solving and learning about their physical capabilities are all things that recess teaches students.
Do you think students should be guaranteed recess every day?
Maiya: Yes! Kids might plan to do something at recess with friends they may only see at school. If they don’t have recess, they will never get to play with them otherwise. Without recess, they may be more tempted to try to play or talk in class. Recess helps you know you are going to get a break. If you know you will get a break you are less likely to do things in class that cause disruption, like talking, laughing or moving around. Recess gives kids a chance to be active since not all kids get the chance to do sports or other activities outside of school. You can also play sports with kids at recess you don’t normally get to play with on other teams.
Owen: I think kids should be guaranteed recess every day because it makes it easier for them and other students to learn, and it makes kids feel good, which probably means it is good for their bodies. This helps them be more successful later in life. Personally, I feel like recess helps me unwind, and that makes me more attentive in class. I have also noticed that I get bored more when I don’t have recess, and boredom can make information stick in my head less.
Akshay: I think students should be guaranteed recess every day at school. Every day a student gets recess is a day when a student is able to perform better and learn more. In my opinion, there is no reason to hinder the students' education and mental health by not giving them this opportunity. The cost of adding recess every day may be seen as less educational time, however, I would argue education is about quality over quantity. More ready-to-learn students in slightly less time greatly outweighs students who are tired, upset and fidgety for just a bit more learning time.
What would you tell legislators in Olympia to consider when voting on the recess bills?
Maiya: I went to Olympia and told legislators to support this bill because it is important that all kids, not just some, get to do all the things I talked about during recess. All of these things are important, and all kids deserve the chance to enjoy them.
Owen: I would tell them that they should vote yes on these bills, because recess helps kids learn. It is really important for students to learn the material being taught in school, and if they learn more it will make them likelier to pursue a greater education. If they get a better education, then they will be more likely to get better jobs when they graduate. Recess is also good for kids physically and mentally, and I think it makes them happier.
Akshay: I would tell legislators that voting yes on these bills is in our teachers’ and students’ best interests. Some people may think these bills detract from school learning time, however, diving deeper, it is clear that when students are more excited about school, it makes the job easier for teachers and school systems. It is important to note that, yes, in the beginning it may be hard to organize and find time for more recess, but the end result is clear: Students will learn more and have a better and easier time at school because recess not only improves their classroom learning, but also teaches them vital life skills. Students need recess every day.