Are You Doing Recess Right? A New Tool Can Help

Despite the proven benefits, students probably aren’t getting the most out of recess, finds a new study that offers up a 17-point checklist to optimize the playground experience.

While there’s little doubt that children get exercise on the playground—recess accounts for up to 44 percent of their steps taken during the school day—schools often underestimate the social, emotional, and academic potential of playtime and fail to design recess to optimize those benefits.

To help educators understand what works on the playground—and what doesn’t—researchers visited nearly 500 elementary schools spanning 22 urban and metropolitan areas in the U.S. The researchers hoped to develop a tool that looked beyond simple questions of physical activity and playground equipment and toward a broader review of “safety, resources, student engagement, adult engagement, prosocial/antisocial behavior, and student empowerment on the playground.”

To learn more, including tips to maximize recess, read this article from Edutopia.


New 4-Square Courts at Brookshire Elementary

Thanks to Brookshire parents and the Brookshire community, the Brookshire Fund has a lot in the works to benefit Brookshire kids!

Most recently, the Brookshire Fund completed 4-square courts at the elementary school, with new Bulldog Yellow and Blue striping! Recently, Brookshire Elementary students were able to enjoy the courts and will continue use them during recess and breaks!

Strategies for Recess in Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SHAPE America have developed new resources for recess in schools.

Make a Difference, Join Your Healthy School Team

Lakemont Elementary's Healthy School Team kicks off the 2015-16 school year with their first meeting of the year.

Lakemont Elementary’s Healthy School Team kicks off the 2015-16 school year.

Looking for ways to inspire students to eat a few more fruits and vegetables and move more?  Want to have a voice in the health and wellness activities in your child’s school?  Join your school’s Healthy School Team (HST).

HSTs were created and modeled in Winter Park Consortium schools—Winter Park High School and its 10 elementary and middle feeder schools—with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) beginning in 2002. The teams—charged with coming up with activities to promote healthy lifestyles for students and staff in their own schools—are now required in every public school in Florida.

As a parent, you know your children and their needs better than anyone. By getting involved with your child’s healthy school team, you can help create, monitor and enhance school policies that will improve the school environment.

To find out more about your school’s HST, including meeting schedule, areas of focus, and membership, follow these steps:


1. Determine who your HST leader is.  Click on your school’s name on Healthy Kids Today, then look for “Healthy School Team Leader” to find your HST leader.

2. Contact your HST leader.  Explain your interest in the HST, ask about work the group has already done and what opportunities there are for you to get involved.

3. Ask when and where the next HST meeting will be held. HSTs may be holding open forums for the public, but most will be meeting as a small group.

4. Share your thoughts and ideas.  Discuss what you think the school could do to help promote healthy food, nutrition education and exercise opportunities for your children.

Do you have additional questions or comments about Healthy School Teams? Email us at


WPHF Consortium Elementary Schools to Receive Recess Carts

hula hoop recess Background

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines recess as “regularly scheduled periods within the elementary school day for unstructured physical activity and play.” Research documents the benefits of recess for a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being. Yet, recent surveys and studies have indicated a national trend toward reducing recess to accommodate additional time for academic subjects in addition to its withdrawal for punitive or behavioral reasons.

Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.  After recess, for children, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.

Although not all children play vigorously at recess, it does provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing and to practice movement and motor skills. Importantly, recess affords young children free activity for the sheer joy of it. Even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home and helps the child achieve the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, which can help lower risk of obesity.  To maximize the benefits of recess, the AAP recommends 20 minutes of daily recess for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

In general, recess has been fading from Florida’s public schools for the past decade, as educators looked to squeeze more academic time into the school day, often because of state rules. In a January 2015 poll of Orange County Public Schools’ (OCPS) 123 elementary schools, 100 (81%) of elementary schools offer some form of recess (all Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) consortium elementary schools offer recess).   This concerns some parents and as a result, parents are leading the efforts to incorporate 20 minutes of daily recess into all OCPS schools.  Their activities brought before the OCPS School Board include:

October 2014: Petition for 20 minutes of daily recess for all K-5 OCPS students with 300+ signatures presented to Orange County School Board.

January 2015: 50+ parents and students join together at School Board meeting to request district wide policy.  OCPS School Board asked Area Superintendents to follow-up with all elementary school principals to work recess physical activity into their schedules starting fall 2015.

June 2015: Recess resolution passed by School Board (Click here for resolution)

“Encourages elementary schools to allow for approximately 20 minutes of recess time at least on days when students are not scheduled for physical education; allowing teachers to utilize their discretion in scheduling recess based upon the needs of their students, and their expertise.”

In July 2015, WPHF discussed recess with consortium school principals during a scheduled consortium principals’ meeting.  The following challenges were indicated in regards to meeting the recess resolution suggestion of 20 minutes of daily recess:

  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Scheduling
  • Weather
  • Conflict Resolution

Principals indicated recess equipment as their top request to address these challenges.


Kids Recess CartsIn order to address the concerns of the consortium elementary principals while maximizing recess time, the WPHF’s Children and Youth Work Group has approved a grant of up to $38,000 to provide recess carts with non-elimination equipment to all WPHF consortium elementary schools.  Recess carts are a best practice for the Florida Department of Education’s Office (FL DOE) of Healthy Schools and have been successfully piloted in Audubon Park and Dommerich Elementary schools with Fuel Up to Play 60 funding.  Providing recess carts to classroom teachers does the following:

  • Maximizes recess time by eliminating the need for classroom teachers to locate equipment
  • Increases student participation by promoting non-elimination games and activities
  • Increases the life of the equipment through classroom ownership
  • Decreases scheduling, overcrowding, and weather related concerns by allowing for use of non-traditional space for recess
  • Decreases recess conflict by offering numerous activities and non-elimination games
  • Allows for customization and personalization for class needs based on variety of equipment and resources provided.

The recess carts will be supplied with equipment based on the results of the FL DOE’s recess kit pilot through the YMCA’s Partnership for Healthier Communities.  Wagons will be provided to house the equipment for easy transportation of the items throughout the elementary school campuses. In order to reach all 270 consortium elementary classrooms in a cost-effective method, 54 recess carts will be purchased with each recess cart serving four to six classrooms.  Recess carts will also be specific to lower elementary grades (K-2) and upper elementary grades (3-5).

Consortium Healthy School Team Leaders will be provided training on the equipment in the recess carts and asked to then train their staff during an all-staff meeting on the effective use of the carts.  Each cart will also contain a binder, with suggested non-elimination games and additional methods to utilize the cart’s equipment.

Technical assistance will be available throughout the year to help teachers with any questions they may have as they utilize their school’s recess carts.  In May of 2016, teachers will be asked to complete a short survey to provide feedback and data regarding the benefits and lessons learned in regards to the utilization of the recess carts.

Recess Cart Objectives:

  • Increase opportunities for students to get physical activity without sacrificing instructional time.
  • Provide teachers with a tool to maximize recess time while minimizing conflict
  • Help schools meet the OCPS resolution suggestion of 20 minutes of daily recess
  • Decrease scheduling concerns by allowing for the utilization of unconventional recess space for recess (classroom, media center, hallways, etc.)
  • Improve children’s performance in the classroom and on standardized end-of-grade tests.
  • Increase classroom teacher knowledge of and participation in non-elimination games

Recess carts will be delivered to WPHF consortium elementary schools this fall.  Make sure to ask your child about the recess carts at their school!

Orange County Public Schools Approves Recess Resolution

recess slideIf your child attends an Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) elementary school, recess may look different this school year.

On June 23, the OCPS School Board unanimously passed a resolution encouraging 20 minutes of daily recess for all OCPS elementary schools.  The resolution does not mandate recess, instead, it leaves the decision up to teachers and administration about whether or not to provide recess. However, it does recommend 20 minutes of daily recess, at least on days when students do not have a physical education class.

The approval of the recess resolution is an excellent example of the power of a parent’s voice.  Last year, parents who were upset abut the lack of recess in OCPS elementary schools joined together to launch a recess petition drive. Through a successful social media campaign, education, and presentations to the school board, all OCPS elementary students will now have increased opportunities for unstructured play through recess.

The Center for Disease Control provides the following information on recess in “Strategies for Supporting Recess in Elementary Schools” (May 2014). Click here to reference this CDC document.

Recess provides students with a needed break from their structured school day. It can improve children’s physical, social, and emotional well-being, and enhance learning. Recess helps children meet the goal of 60 minutes of physical activity each day, as recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services. National organizations (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend that districts provide at least 20 minutes of daily recess for all students in elementary schools.

OCPS offers this webpage with five facts about recess in OCPS elementary schools.

Congratulations to the OCPS for approving this resolution.  Recess can play an important role in building healthy kids; healthy kids make better students and better students make healthy communities.