A Great Recess = a Better School Day, New Research Shows

  1. Updates
  2. Healthy Schools
  3. Infographic
  4. Recess
  5. Study

Randomized control study finds students at Playworks schools experience less bullying, feel safer, return to classroom quicker, and are more physically active

We’re excited to announce new research showing the power of a great recess!

After years of hearing thousands of stories from teachers and principals in our partner schools telling us Playworks positively impacts school climate and student learning, academic performance and physical activity, we now also have scientific proof that when recess is done well, the entire school benefits.

A randomized control study by Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research compared Playworks schools with control schools in five cities. Check out the results here.

This study, our surveys and our experiences have taught us a lot about recess. The following are just a few lessons:

We know that schools with Playworks have less bullying during recess and students feel safer at Playworks schools. This is because students engaged in positive and inclusive play activities. In fact in our own surveys of staff at Playworks partner schools, 97% reported an increase in students engaged in healthy play.

Not only are students more emotionally safe at schools with great recess, but students are more physically active. Adults and student leaders teach kids the rules of several different fun and active games–especially games in which kids are given a different role when they become out. Schools work together to create a map of the playground so that every child and adult know where they can play. And both kids and adults encouraging others to play. In our surveys, 97% of staff at Playworks schools reported an increase in number of students who are physical activity, and 97% reported an increase in the intensity of student physical activity.

Schools with Playworks report less time to transition from recess to the classroom and an increase in students’ ability to focus on class activities. By using engaging cheers and attention getters from group management, Playworks make transitions fun (for both kids and adults). In 2011-2012 surveys, teachers and principals reported an average of 20 hours of class time recovered through the school year. That’s like adding a week into the school year without even adding a day!

When school recess is safe, fun and inclusive, children are given the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to succeed in school and life. The proof is in our kids–and the research. We’re proud to report the research, and proud to be helping America’s schools bring out the best in our kids.

Need support transforming your recess? Check out our professional development workshops and schedule a Playworks trainer to come to your school.

More Updates

August 24, 2021

Playworks Founder Jill Vialet Publishes ‘Why Play Works’ ›

Play brings out the best in every kid. Over the course of 25 years since Jill Vialet founded Playworks, she and her colleagues, as well as researchers and play experts, have demonstrated precisely how and why play works to help kids learn and grow in the most positive and healthy ways. Jill gathered stories from people…

May 12, 2021

10 Tips for Teaching Physical Distance ›

As kids return to school in person… It may be difficult to keep them physically distant. Although the CDC has updated COVID safety guidance to be a physical distance of 3 feet for students rather than the previous 6 feet, that can still feel like a lot to children. After months away from their friends…

students playing on blacktop
students playing on blacktop

April 29, 2021

Leveraging Play to Address Learning Loss ›

In order to help kids recover from learning loss, we must ensure their emotional needs are met. We need to prioritize every child’s wellbeing, and that starts with acknowledging that many kids are healing from traumas caused by the pandemic, including social, emotional, and physical impacts of COVID-19.  “When children experience stress and trauma, it…