By Hassan Jones, Head of Middle School
“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being” (Eckhart Tolle).
The bell rang and the students spilled out into the hallway skipping and moving joyfully to their lockers. It was the end of the school day and the students were excited about all that had transpired.
Interestingly, when I talk to students about their school day, they focus on the non-academic aspects of what took place. More often than not lunch, recess, and other unstructured times before, during, and after school is what preoccupies their thoughts. As middle school educators, it is important to understand and cultivate ways for students to enjoy being in the moment. Research shows mindfulness techniques and daily recess make a positive difference in the overall education and wellbeing of young people (Drinkworth, 2017; Pelligrini & Bohn, 2005; Weare, 2012).
Our School understands this and we build both into the day. Mindfulness work with young people has been shown to: contribute to the development of cognitive and performance skills, mitigate the effects of bullying, enhance focus in children with ADHD, reduce attention problems, improve mental health and wellbeing, improve sleep, self-esteem, and bring about calmness, relaxation, and self-regulation and awareness (Weare, 2012).
Similarly, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following perspective regarding the benefits of recess:
1. Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
2. Cognitive processing and academic performance depend on regular breaks from concentrated classroom work. This applies equally to adolescents and to younger children.
3. Recess is a complement to, but not a replacement for, physical education. Physical education is an academic discipline. Whereas both have the potential to promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, only recess (particularly unstructured recess) provides the creative, social, and emotional benefits of play.
4. Recess can serve as a counterbalance to sedentary time and contribute to the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by AAP policy as a means to lessen risk of overweight.
5. Whether structured or unstructured, recess should be safe and well-supervised. Although schools should ban games and activities that are unsafe, they should not discontinue recess altogether just because of concerns connected with child safety. Environmental conditions, well-maintained playground equipment, and well-trained supervisors are the critical components of safe recess.
6. Peer interactions during recess are a unique complement to the classroom. The lifelong skills acquired for communication, negotiation, cooperation, sharing, problem solving, and coping are not only foundations for healthy development but also fundamental measures of the school experience.
Middle school can be a challenging time for many students. Thus it is important to intentionally provide opportunities for students to enjoy being in the moment. By incorporating mindfulness techniques and daily recess into our program, we help to ensure our students are better prepared to face the challenges in front of them.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2013). The Crucial Role of Recess in School Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/183 Drinkworth, A. (2017).
“What Are the Benefits of Recess in Middle Schools?” Retrieved from https://classroom.synonym.com/benefits-recess-middle-schools-6194.html. Pellegrini, A. D. & Bohn, C. M. (2005).
The role of recess in children’s cognitive performance and school adjustment. Educational Researcher, 34(1), 13-19. Weare, Katherine (2012).
Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People. The Mindfulness in Schools Project. University of Exeter.