Nudge: Recess before lunch

January 27, 2010 at 7:39 am Leave a comment

Nearly 95 percent of elementary schools structure the middle-of-the-day out-of-class time the same way: lunch first, then recess.

A pilot study at a school in Scottsdale, Arizona, however, found that “recess before lunch” reduced student visits to the school nurse by 40 percent, significantly decreased food waste (since students were no longer scarfing or throwing away their lunches to rush to the playground), and added 15 minutes to every school day—in part because fewer students were feeling sick, and also because the later lunch period served as a buffer between playtime and work time.

As the school’s principal said, “Kids needed a cool-down period before they could start their academic work. We saved 15 minutes every day because kids could play, then go into the cafeteria and eat and cool down, and come back to the classroom and start academic work immediately.”

Since the initial trial period of this simple scheduling change, more than half of the schools in this particular district have moved recess before lunch.

A similar experiment was conducted at four schools in Montana back in 2002—and achieved similar results. Students “wasted less food, drank more milk, and asked for more water. And as in Arizona, students were calmer when they returned to classrooms, resulting in about 10 minutes of extra teaching time.” Since then, nearly one-third of the schools in Montana have rescheduled recess to occur immediately before lunch.

Read more here.


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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