Quick activity breaks increase movement, resetting kids’ brains omaha metro omaha.com gas x strips review

Such short, quick activity breaks, known as “brain breaks” for their ability to get blood flowing and reset brains for the next round of learning, are one of the tools schools are using — along with walking clubs, and more in-class activity — to break up long class blocks and boost activity in schools.

Recess still is happening. But that unfettered time on the playground has come under pressure in recent years as schools across the country have increased the amount of time devoted to math and reading instruction in the wake of No Child Left Behind. The federal law requires school districts to show increasing proficiency in those two key subjects or face consequences.

Other subjects, such as science and social studies, also have gotten a measurable squeeze. But the pressure on recess, as with physical education, comes at a time when health advocates from the White House down have focused attention on boosting physical activity and improving nutrition in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that “minimizing or eliminating recess may be counterproductive to academic achievement, as a growing body of evidence suggests that recess promotes not only physical health and social development but also cognitive performance.”

Both Nebraska and Iowa leave such decisions to local districts, and neither state tracks recess. The Nebraska Department of Education’s “suggested” weekly schedule doesn’t specify a time block for recess but recommends that it be included in daily schedules.

The Papillion-La Vista district now specifies that all kids in kindergarten through sixth grade have one 15-minute large group recess. Students in kindergarten through second grade also get a second opportunity for movement, whether it be recess, brain breaks or a walk around the building. Those in grades three through six may get a second opportunity, at teachers’ discretion.

Schools, Rodenburg said, face the same dilemmas as families in deciding how to prioritize their time. “Right now, the priority tends to be high academic standards, so that’s where you put your focus,” she said. “That’s what’s valued by communities, families and businesses.”

Lincoln Public Schools went through a review several years ago. The district long had recommended at least two breaks a day. But sometimes the second one got lost, said Cindy Schwaninger, director of elementary education. Now all elementaries have at least one 15-minute recess and most also have a second break.

The Lincoln district, like many in the metro area, also stresses sending kids out before lunch when schedules allow. That way, Schwaninger said, kids go to lunch with their metabolisms ramped up, ready to eat a good meal and drink their milk, rather than rushing through lunch to get to recess.

The Omaha Public Schools this year significantly boosted the time elementary students spend on math. Under that schedule, OPS allocated 15 minutes for recess in kindergarten through second grade as well as a lunch recess. Students in third through sixth grade get a lunch recess. District officials also encouraged teachers to provide “brain breaks” throughout the day.

So three years ago, the school sent staff for training in a system intended to increase student engagement. Instead of sitting in rows, kids sit in small groups and frequently turn to each other in activities that involve coaching and problem-solving, like teams in a workplace. Instead of one student raising a hand and answering a question, she said, at least half of the students in a class are actively participating at any given time.

Last year, 78 percent of Gilder’s students were proficient in reading and 72 percent met the mark in math. The little school outperformed the Omaha district’s average scores for reading and math, showed growth across all grades where it was measured and met federal targets for all but special education students. Nearly 85 percent of students currently qualify for free or reduced-price meals and 30 percent are learning English.

Several researchers and educators, however, agreed that recess, unlike P.E. and brain breaks, offers valuable unstructured physical activity and play. The pediatrics academy also has supported free play as a “fundamental component” of a child’s growth and development.

The subject likely will come up as OPS works through the objectives of its strategic plan. Those discussions probably will include the fact that district students, particularly at the elementary level, spend less time in school than those in most neighboring districts.