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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would aid with child development by increasing cognitive skills, reducing obesity and bettering classroom behavior by ensuring all children receive some free play time during the school day was approved today by the full Senate.
“Recess helps students to develop cognitive skills, teaches them teamwork and cooperation and improves communication skills – core skills that our children need to succeed in the classroom and in life,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Hunterdon. “For the health and well-being of future generations, it is important we continue to look at recess and physical education, not as something that takes time away from learning in the classroom, but as part of a curriculum that will teach lasting and important life skills. Like generations before them, children just need to get out and play.”
The bill, S-1501, would require New Jersey public schools to provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day of recess for children in grades kindergarten through five.
According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, most school principals say that recess actually enhances the ability of children to learn in the classroom and improves academic achievement. The survey also concluded that nearly all principals surveyed believe that recess has a positive effect on the social development and general well-being of the child. Senator Turner added that recess also helps to improve the health of children and will assist in combating the obesity epidemic facing young people.
“Not only will obesity affect the individual health and well-being of our children, but it will cause a future public health crisis in this country. Healthcare costs related to childhood obesity are already at $14.5 billion annually. And as obese children become obese adults, the cost of an increasingly overweight population will be an unmanageable strain on the nation’s healthcare budget,” said Senator Turner. “It is critical for our children to establish habits of good nutrition and exercise when they are young. Like many of the other skills that our children learn at school, these habits must be taught. Physical education is an important part of this equation, teaching the value of teamwork and cooperation during structured playtime.”
Senator Turner notes that children are increasingly eating poor diets of fast food, junk food and soda and living sedentary lifestyles spending their free time playing video games or watching television. According to the American Heart Association, obese children’s arteries resemble the thickness of artery walls of an average 45-year-old and the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure is alarming.
Unfortunately many schools are taking away recess in order to focus on meeting academic standards and improving student test scores, according to Senator Turner. Forty percent of US schools have reduced or eliminated recess, according to Childhood Education, the bimonthly journal of the Association for Childhood Education International, and high-minority, high-poverty and urban schools have seen even greater cuts into the children’s recess time.
The bill was approved with a vote of 34-2. It now heads to the General Assembly for further consideration.
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