Why Recess is the Most Important Time of Day

Recess improves listening skills, develops the capacity to love, encourages social creativity and more.


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The subject of recess has been making headlines lately. After years of increasing instructional time and decreasing free time in pursuit of higher test scores, the tides seem to be turning as lawmakers in several states move to reinstate lost play time.

But the importance of recess is not news to me. As someone who has worked in education for more than 20 years, I’ve been a longtime proponent of recess, ensuring students get two to three recess times daily, as well as additional “talk breaks.” Middle-schoolers also need breaks with a recess before lunch and opportunities during the day to collaborate with peers, which also reduces the drive to socialize at the wrong time.


Why is Recess Such an Important Part of the School Day?  

Social and emotional growth is intrinsically linked to academic growth for two main reasons. Like us, children can’t learn if they don’t feel happy and secure, and secondly, children learn while at play — through their own experience, through their interaction with peers, and through their interactions with adults.

There is a reason why, when you ask a student what their favorite lesson is, they usually say "recess." Children come to school to make friends. Recess is when children get time to spend with their friends, learn how to be a friend and ultimately practice their capacity to negotiate. It’s where they improve their listening skills, develop their capacity to love, discover their social creativity, learn to forgive and even learn how to recover from the pain of social rejection.

Teachers of the most rigorous curriculum can also teach in a ‘playful’ way, using humor and building relationships to ensure students feel confident to take risks and make mistakes. The classroom activities can also encourage collaboration. We know the most effective education occurs when children are engaged, excited and motivated. A simple example would be to compare two activities: Completing a page of math problems or playing a game that requires the same algebraic thinking skills. The latter, "play-based" activity will not only quickly lead a child to independent learning, but will allow opportunity to increase the difficulty of the task and the student’s stamina, without increasing anxiety or fear of failure in the child.

Parents can bring play into the home in a similar way. Setting or clearing the table is much more fun when the child is the waiter and the parents are guests at the “restaurant” (the dinner table). Next time you need a small child to stand still, ask them to pretend to be a soldier on guard. Or, if you need a child to really listen, put a sock on your hand and let your "sock hand" do the talking.

But don’t just take my word for it. Freidrich Froebel, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget ... all the giants in the child development field, have said that play is central to a child’s development. In our modern, busy, connected world, now more than ever, we need to give children permission to just play.


Alison Gammage is the Head of Lower School at St. Timothy's School in Raleigh. Gammage, a native of the United Kingdom, studied theology at the University of Oxford and then went on to complete a master's degree in education, followed by a master's degree in special education in the U.S. She served as a teacher and administrator at schools in Washington, D.C., before moving to Raleigh to join St. Timothy's School.

 

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December 2019

Come by the Finley Center any time during the day to participate in a collaborative community art project celebrating what you are thankful for! Play a game of “Roll a Turkey” and take home...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

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Historic Polk House
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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Cost: $10-$60/person

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Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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Did you know bucks or male deer can grow a new set of antlers each year? Explore pelts, skulls, tracks, and scat of white-tailed deer through hands-on discovery stations. Then learn about the...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2854
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Cost: $10-$60/person

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Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $0

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Duke School
3716 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127198.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Have you ever wondered what happens to our wildlife during the winter? They have a variety of adaptations to help them get through the cold months. Come explore some of their techniques then take a...

Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Design and create a keepsake apron with vibrant markers and other fun decorations. After completing your apron, enjoy baking and decorating your own individual cake. Ages 6-10. 

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Parents of children learn age-appropriate social skills for children ages 3-6. Register online by Nov. 28.

Cost: $22/person or $33/couple

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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Cost: Free admission

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Hope Community Church
2080 E Williams St
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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
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Cost: $5 Resident/$6 nonresident

Where:
Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio
200 Plant Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Community Clay Studio and Chapel Hill Teen Center
Telephone: 919-968-2878
Contact Name: Robena Meek
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Cost: $10-$60/person

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Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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Cost: Free

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Greenwood Forest Baptist Church
110 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: $28 + taxes and fees

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The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
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See award-winning houses from the Town of Cary's 9th Annual Gingerbread House Competition on display. 

Cost: Free

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Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
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Ages 4-12 enjoy free arts and crafts. Registration not required. Children must have adult accompaniment. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Cost: $21/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Get ready for the holidays with festive activities, shopping, a holiday concert at 5 p.m. and much more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Make an angel out of polymer clay to hang on a tree. Register online. Choose course #127353.

Cost: $19/resident, $25/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Kick off your holiday season with horse-drawn carriage rides, hot apple cider, live music, handmade crafts, holiday activities, and a visit with Ol' Saint Nick.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

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Ages 3-12 and their fathers enjoy a night of dancing, light refreshments, photos and more. Registration required at Rolesville Community Center.

Cost: $25.00 per couple, non-resident $30.00 per couple, $10.00 per additional child

Where:
Rolesville Community Center
514 Southtown Circle
Rolesville, NC  27571
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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

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