TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Patrick Diegnan that would aid with child development by increasing cognitive skills, and bettering classroom behavior by ensuring all children receive some free play time during the school day cleared the full Senate today.
The bill, S-1144, would require New Jersey public schools to provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day of recess for children in grades kindergarten through fifth.
“Recess and academics go hand-in-hand,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Recess improves learning and is a valuable part of children’s overall development. Giving children a break between intense cognitive challenges can help improve their ability to process information and the chance burn off some energy helps keep them focused in the classroom. Twenty-minutes of recess also helps students to be active and promotes a healthy lifestyle.”
According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, most school principals say that recess actually enhances the ability of children to learn in the classroom and improves academic achievement.
The survey also concluded that nearly all principals surveyed believe that recess has a positive effect on the social development and general well-being of the child.
“This is an important piece of legislation for our school children, especially those who are younger and still developing,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Students need a break. It’s been proven how children can benefit going out to play. Moreover, we cannot stop kids from being kids. Recess is the one time a day when they go outside to play in an unstructured way.”
Unfortunately many schools are taking away recess in order to focus on meeting academic standards and improving student test scores. Forty percent of U.S. schools have reduced or eliminated recess, according to Childhood Education, the bimonthly journal of the Association for Childhood Education International, and high-minority, high-poverty and urban schools have seen even greater cuts into children’s recess time.
The bill does address that a student could be denied recess regarding the findings of an investigation into Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) or another violation of the district’s code of student conduct.
The bill cleared the Senate 36-0 and will now head to the Assembly for further consideration.