New middle school recess relieves stress for teachers and students

Despite some students wishing it was longer, recess offers a welcome brain break for majority of students


Students in Mr. Bickford’s Panther Time class play their favorite theatre game, “Splat,” during indoor recess. (In picture: Emery Rosensweig, Adhvik Vinodh, Lauren DeShields, Shravya Kamasamudram, Maisie Smith-Zoh, Daanya Saraff.)

Ava-Grace Satterfield, Writer

“I love recess because I get to spend time with my friends for 10 minutes — but it’s ok!” said Uma Sarkar, an eighth-grader on the Discovery team.  “It helps me take my mind off of things, and helps me get rid of any stress or anxiety from the day.”

Outside on the blacktops and fields of the Rachel Carson school building from 10:25 to 10:40, you can find crowds of students running around, chattering with friends, and playing all sorts of sports; all in part of recess — a privilege limited to FCPS elementary school students until this school year, when a daily 15 minute recess break was implemented for students in all middle schools in FCPS.

The Fairfax County school board voted to implement recess in middle school on April 14 of this year, and, for the first time ever, middle schools all across FCPS are required to have a 15-minute recess every day. 

According to Gordon Stokes, Principal of Rachel Carson Middle School, the school board said it would be valuable for middle schoolers to have a break. 

“It’s a good way to release stress,” he said. “It’s turning out to be a positive thing.”

According to a recent survey of 100 FCPS middle school students, 54% of students feel that recess has made them feel less stressed and/or anxious in school.

Teachers are also noticing changes in student’s behavior following recess periods.

“It’s nice having a little bit of a break- a brain break,” says Mrs. Kathy Keay-Morgan, a Civics and History teacher for the Voyagers team. “This has been good — the kids need a break and it’s easier to focus.”

Ms. Lisa Riddle, a math teacher on the Yellow Jackets team who has been teaching for 13 years, has also seen a change in students’ behavior following the addition of recess this year.

 “There is much better behavior in students compared to last year,” she says. “I think kids are much calmer in the periods following recess.

Students have also found that recess has helped them concentrate more in school. According to the survey, 57% of 100 FCPS middle school students believe it has helped them focus better in the classroom.

“I believe recess is beneficial to our studies because it helps us relieve stress and focus in the classroom,” says Christina Liu, an eighth-grader on the Explorers team. She says recess helps her feel less anxious during the school day because she gets to enjoy the outdoor and fresh air instead of being inside all day and she gets to talk to her friends.

Rohan Jayakumar, an eighth-grader on the Voyagers team, says, “I think [recess is] helpful for students because it takes their mind off of the pressure and learning in school and gives them a break.” 

Despite all of the benefits a majority of students and teachers have been receiving in school due to recess, many have also found problems or areas of improvement for the 15-minute brain break. According to a survey conducted by 100 RCMS students, 21% of students don’t have anything to do or anyone to talk to during recess. 

“I feel like I got lucky that I have a few friends in my recess, that makes it fun,” said Riya Agrawal, an eighth-grader on the Discovery team. “If you don’t have friends in recess it’s just like super-duper lonely.” 

Riya also pointed out a few other flaws with the newly-added break. “I think if it was more structured it’d be more fun and be a better brain break,” she said. “I feel like people are getting out of class and just talking about class when they’re outside.”

She, along with some other students, complain that the 15-minute break is too short.

Although Diya Doshi, an eighth-grader on the Voyagers team, enjoys getting to socialize with friends during recess, she believes that the break isn’t long enough to have a positive effect on her or help her focus better in the classroom. “Recess doesn’t affect me because each class is shorter and fifteen minutes isn’t enough to affect anyone,” she says. 

Despite the concerns some students shared, a majority of students seem to like recess– 70% of RCMS middle schoolers in the 100 student survey say they enjoy the break. 

Rohan said, “It lets [students] calm down, talk to their friends, and have a moment to themselves. I am hoping it’s here to stay.”