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Draper Journal

Return of recess: Success story at Summit Academy

Oct 01, 2022 06:28PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

One of the favorite activities in schools for many students is recess.

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that recess benefits students by improving their memory and attention, helping them stay on topic in class, reducing their disruptive behavior, improving their social development, and being more physically fit when they’re active and engaged with their peers in activities.

So then, why does recess disappear after elementary school?

Starting this year at Summit Academy, it doesn’t.

“The main reason why I made that change this year is just that all students need to go outside and have that fresh air each day and get the sun in their face,” Principal Lindy Hatch said. “I think it also helps decrease (inappropriate) behaviors within the school because it gives them a chance to go out and get rid of some energy in the middle of the day.”

She said after the sixth- through eighth-grade students finish their lunch, they’re given the option to go outside for recess. In the past, they were expected to stay inside the cafeteria until lunch was over.

“I would say 90 to 95% of the students go out. They love it,” she said. “They still have PE, but they really like having that break in the middle of the day. PE is just either an A or B day class, so, they don’t have that class every day. It’s also just a semester class so it may be they don’t have PE this semester.”

To go along with having lunch recess, Hatch purchased with fundraising funds junior high recess equipment including a giant Connect Four and Jenga games, Spikeball and different yard games. 

“Our PE teacher (Kenny Druce) spent the first two weeks of school teaching the students how to play the different games,” Hatch said, adding that she rotates along with Rebecca Yockey and Hammama Hira on duty at recess and regularly rotate those games during the week.

Traditional recess activities such as basketball, soccer, four square and others are available daily.

Cell phones, however, are not allowed.

“That was the other change that I made. Last year they were able to have phones at lunch and this year, they’re not,” Hatch said. “Again, it was just the behavior. We had a lot of inappropriate use of the phone during lunch where students would be taking pictures of other students or using that time to use social media inappropriately and so I was just taking their phones away. (With the change), students at first, were hesitant; they were leery of the new, no cell phone procedure, but they've actually done very well with it. I have not had any complaints from students. I think it’s one of those things where they know they needed that boundary, but they're not going to ask for that boundary.”

Those changes have helped with positive behavior. 

“It definitely has helped with our lunchroom behavior. Our lunchroom office discipline referrals are definitely down,” she said. “What’s hard is our lunchtime has to be a certain length to provide enough time for the students to get their food and eat it. But you always have those fast-finishers or students who bring their own lunch and start eating quickly while the other students are in line getting their lunch. So, you have some students that were just sitting there for a good 15 minutes after sitting in their chairs in the classroom. We ask them to come sit in the lunchroom and just not stand up and walk around, so by getting a chance to go outside, it allows them a chance to move around and get some movement within the day.”

Hatch also said that it gives students some down time during the day.

“It's just as important for junior high kids to have some release time together to socialize and have fun, so when they go back to the classroom, they can focus,” she said.