School Recess + Adults = ?

I recently presented research on how adults can influence school recess.

This year the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Exercise and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) hosted a virtual conference. Instead of the traditional poster presentation, my lab created a short 4 minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube.

Find the YouTube video below:

School Recess + Adults = ?

Often, when we think of recess, we think it’s all fun and games — but, actually, a lot of bullying and teasing can happen during recess too. So, the purpose of our study was to check out problems during school recess and try to figure out why these problems happen.

In order to do this, our lab went to 25 different schools throughout the USA and observed 112 recess periods. We used a guide (called The Great Recess Framework-Observational Tool) to help us observe recess. While we were out on the playground during recess, we also wrote down some notes to help us remember what we were noticing. We jotted down notes about (1) safety, (2) student behaviors, (3) adult behaviors, (4) physical activity, and (5) what happens right before and after the recess bell rings.

After we were all done going to schools, our lab re-read all the notes. We tried to notice any patterns from our notes.

We noticed a few patterns. First, we noticed problems with the schoolyard itself — like holes in a chain link fence, lots of trash, or broken rusty play sets. Problems with the schoolyard seem connected to safety problems; kids could easily run into a busy street or trip over hidden holes in the grass.

Second, we noticed that there were often too many kids in a small schoolyards with not enough things to play with (like jump ropes or balls). When this happened, it seemed like the same kids were usually left out and excluded from playing during recess. We noticed that older boys usually got to play, but others couldn’t. For example, 6th grades boy would play soccer and 5th grade boys would play basketball, but other kids could only just walk around or watch.

We might think that children can handle recess all by themselves, but adults can be a part of recess too. They can help make sure things go well for all the kids. For example, the principal or vice principal can walk around the school yard before recess starts to make sure there are no holes in the fence or rusty, broken play equipment. Teachers or yard monitors can make sure the balls are being shared with everyone — not just the oldest students. If a kid is being bullied or teased, adults can step in and stop this. Even better, adults can play and hang out with kids during recess. For example, teachers can pitch the ball in kickball, be goalie in soccer, or shoot some hoops in basketball.

School Recess + Helpful Nice Adults = Fun Safe Recess for More Kids!

OSU Research Team: Deanna Perez, Janelle Thalken, Alexandra Szarabajko, Laura Neilson, & William V. Massey

Kinesiology Program | School of Biological and Population Health Sciences | College of Public Health and Human Sciences

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