Elementary school recess can be a resourceful way to give children a break from the classroom. It gives them the opportunity to socialize with their peers without the boundaries of the classroom learning environment and they also receive some physical activity which is a healthy outlet. Although there are some positive benefits to elementary school recess there are also some negatives.
The children there are in a given area the more risk there are and the potential for unsafe play. The problem with recess is that there is a large population of children in a larger area which is very different than the classroom environment. This dynamic makes it very difficult to monitor children. The classroom ratio of teacher to students is usually 20 to 1, where as the ratio for recess is somewhere around 180 to 6. This is why recess should be structured and not just free time.
As an educator for a public school in North Carolina structured physical activity has been included as part of the daily educational curriculum. One of the reasons for implementing structured physical activity time was because of the high rates of obesity among elementary school children. The idea is that recess is no longer a free for all but a structured time, where students are engaged in organized physical activity during recess time. The activities are organized and monitored by teachers.
One of the reasons recess must be structured is because of the challenge of maintaining safety when dealing with large numbers of children in a large contained area. Another reason why recess must be structured is the increase of negative social behaviors prevalent in youth today. One of the number one problems in schools today is bullying and violent behaviors which is not just relative to recess but is common in the environmental climate of schools.
Educators and administrators are faced with the dilemma of coming up with more creative methods to help redirect negative social behaviors common among children today. Structured physical activity time opposed to just recess is a preventative method for combating the danger zone climate of unorganized recess.
Elementary school recess can be healthy peer socialization if it is structured and monitored by adults the problem is having enough adults on hand to assist with monitoring. Usually recess takes place before or after lunch and most of the time teachers are on their lunch breaks during this time. The use of volunteers during recess can be beneficial if the volunteers are trained on how to conduct a structured recess time and are given the resources to implement games and activities.