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Educators encouraged by early results of recess law

February 8, 2019

Arizona teachers, parents and legislators teamed up last year for the sake of children’s health, pushing for legislation that would require more recess or unstructured playtime for elementary school children. The early results of that effort are promising, educators say.

In April, Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1083 requiring schools to provide two recess periods for children in kindergarten through third grade this school year. The law adds fourth- and fifth-graders next school year. Some schools hit the playground running and are already seeing a positive impact.

Since implementing the added recess time at Stanfield Elementary, a small pre-kindergarten-through-8th grade school in rural Pinal County near Casa Grande, principal Chris Lineberry has seen improvement in the overall health of his students, but in other ways, too. He said test scores are up, discipline problems have decreased and attendance has increased.

“There’s information that does indicate that there is an improvement,” he said. “As a result, we have happier kids, happier staff and a more successful school.

“But It’s not just about recess. It’s about movement. It’s about health and wellness. It’s about offering healthy alternatives and healthy meals in our cafeteria. It’s about teaching kids how to be sustainable and garden. It’s about mental wellness.”

It is all part of an effort to encourage healthy habits and battle childhood obesity.

In the most recent 2018 U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Arizona children scored slightly higher than the national average in multiple categories but fell behind in others, including overall physical health. Those national averages, however, are not extremely high to begin with. The national grades in each category hovered around low C’s and D’s.

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