Data Suggests Recess Has Strong Implications for School Climate

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New research demonstrates that a high-functioning recess can contribute to a positive school climate in low-income elementary schools.

Earlier this month, Rebecca A. London, Ph.D. and a group of researchers from the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University published an article in the Journal of School Health entitled, “Playing Fair: The Contribution of High-Functioning Recess to Overall School Climate in Low-Income Elementary Schools.”

The researchers examined six low-income Bay Area schools that had recently implemented Playworks. The study found that by increasing opportunities for meaningful play and physical activity, schools were able to improve their recess climate which then improved their overall school climate. What’s more, for the schools that partnered with Playworks, not only did their recess improve, but teachers and principals reported that recess now offered opportunities for student engagement, conflict resolution, pro-social skill development, and emotional and physical safety.

Three takeaways…

  • Recess offers opportunities for student engagement, conflict resolution, pro-social skill development, and emotional and physical safety.
  • Recess is an important part of the school day for contributing to school climate.
  • Creating a positive recess climate helps students to be engaged in meaningful play and return to class ready to learn.


What makes this research especially compelling is that most school climate research focuses on what happens in the classroom. This research shows that there is a connection between the playground and the overall climate of the school, and that recess should be an important part of any plan to improve climate.

According to lead researcher Rebecca London, “We were there to think about how Playworks makes a difference in the lives of these kids and what are the mechanisms in the schools that both hinder and support program  implementation. And I think we achieved that. The research findings are actionable. ”

Playworks founder and CEO Jill Vialet takes it a step further. “This research is about so much more than just Playworks. If you care about education, if you’re committed to building schools that really work for kids, then the message is clear: recess matters,” remarks Vialet.


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