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Student's research supports a return to recess

The Junior Journalism program is a partnership between the Citrus Times and the Citrus County School District. Students were supplied with prompts and asked to write essays. The topic for seventh-graders was: "Recess is a part of most elementary school days. You are the reporter for the St. Petersburg Times reporting in middle school recess."

Students could choose between an expository or persuasive story. Expository: Explain ways having recess would affect your day. Persuasive: Should recess be included in middle school? Convince school officials as to why it should or should not be included.

By Donovan Foster, Citrus Springs Middle School

Recess is fun, stress reducing and even relaxing, but unfortunately, rarely offered to middle school students, although numerous studies have shown the activity that occurs during recess is not only enjoyable, but also advantageous to learning! It's been repeatedly proven that students are more conscientious after recess than before.

Furthermore, the inactivity of American students, due to the lack of physical education and recess, has led to obesity and its associated illnesses at record levels. I hope to appeal to school administrators everywhere, particularly those here in Citrus County, to re-establish recess for middle school pupils, which will surely lead to an increase in student academic productivity and assist in reducing student obesity, as well.

Regrettably, due to time constraints, many school leaders have opted to cut recess, stating that it is a waste of valuable instruction time. Actually, the opposite is true! Dr. Tony Pellegrini, an educational psychology professor at the University of Georgia who spent 25 years studying playground behavior, shows through his extensive research that "recess maximizes student's attention to classroom tasks and also helps them learn how to interact with each other socially." He considers it "almost inhumane" to deprive pupils of recess!

Additionally, to understand and prove the motivational power recess provides, "Premack's Principle" is often utilized. Dr. David Premack of the University of Pennsylvania performed analysis of cognition and the human mind. He established this principle, which basically states that students will be more apt to perform a particular activity (specifically academics) if they know that they will be able to participate in a more desirable activity (such as recess) as a consequence. The preferred behavior (recess) effectively reinforces the less preferred activity (academics) and increases a student's learning time "on task."

What's more, given the inactivity and obesity crisis in the United States, our schools need to boost efforts to increase physical activity. Unfortunately, according to research, children spend 40 percent less time being physically active than they did 15 years ago. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that students get "at least 60 minutes of developmentally appropriate physical activity each day" and regrettably not everybody gets that at home.

We all need to work together to emphasize physical activity in Citrus County's students' lives. After all, physical activity is as important to education as a good night's sleep and healthy nutrition!

To increase academic performance, boost social skills and decrease obesity, recess should be reinstated for middle school pupils across America. The greatest learning will occur when student motivation is at its highest. Hopefully, decisions related to schools will be based on current and past research and school administrators will re-establish recess in middle school not only for fun, but for the sake of education!