Squeezed between looming budget cuts and the pressure to perform well on standardized tests, many schools are eyeing ways to make the school day more productive. Sometimes, this means reducing recess – or cutting it out altogether.
Big mistake, says Emily Stanley, an education researcher and teacher. Stanley will discuss the short-term and long-term benefits of recess in a talk, “Playing Outside the Box: The Values of Recess,” at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, in Neighbors’ Hall at The Neighborhood Schoolhouse.
Stanley’s talk is the first in the school’s “Learning Beyond the Schoolhouse Walls” lecture series, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the school’s founding. Parents, teachers, administrators and the general public are invited to attend. The talk is free.
“It is critical to have unstructured play time, and a variety of settings to play in,” said Stanley. As children’s lives become more and more structured, she explained, “schools should be a refuge.” Her research suggests that unstructured outdoor play has positive short-term effects on school success as well as long-term academic and social benefits.
“The opportunity to engage in social problem-solving and work out issues that arise on your own” is something that children in highly structured environments do not learn, Stanley said. “This is
causing concern for children’s independent development of social competence, even into adulthood.”
Recess also fosters environmental awareness, and many recent studies suggest it can boost academic performance. Her talk will address not only the benefits of recess, but also many concerns parents and educators have about it, such as safety issues, bullying, and the perceived loss of productive classroom time.
Stanley is a teacher and the chair of the science department at the Jemicy School, near Baltimore. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England, with a focus on children’s choices of outdoor play activities during school recesses.
The Neighborhood Schoolhouse is a small, private elementary and preschool that offers progressive education for children three through 12. The theme-based curriculum promotes hands-on learning through the seasons in the classroom, in the woods and in the community. For more information, please visit the school's website or call 802-257-5544.