Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?

Randomized Controlled Trial of Playworks Shows Widespread Benefits, Including Less Bullying, More Physical Activity, and More Time for Teaching

A safe and healthy recess has the potential to drive better student behavior, health, and learning, according to a new study from Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University.

The randomized controlled trial of Playworks, which provides an active, healthy recess and play throughout the day in low-income elementary schools in 22 U.S. cities, found that the program reduced bullying, enhanced feelings of safety at school, increased vigorous physical activity during recess, and provided more time for classroom teaching. The findings are reported in four featured evaluation briefs, below.

Playworks gets results. I’ve seen it firsthand, and a growing body of evidence now shows that, when it comes to changing schools for the better, recess and play may be one of the most powerful and underutilized tools we have."
- Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of RWJF (read full commentary)

The evaluation adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that what happens at recess can affect a school’s learning environment in important ways, and that improving recess and play may enable schools to address a number of pressing issues at the same time.

This study shows that a great recess is an essential building block for healthy school environments that help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and physically."
- Nancy Barrand, Senior Adviser for Program Development

 Students running in a race over a school field.

Read the Evaluation Reports

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Selected Results from Cohort 1

Strengthening recess transforms the school climate, paving the way for less bullying and more focus on learning, according to Cohort 1 evaluation findings from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University.

Read the report
experience_corps_Portland_5

Effects on School Climate, Academic Learning, Student Social Skills and Behavior

This evaluation report shares findings on school climate, student behavior, and transitions from recess back to class from a randomized controlled trial of Playworks conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University.

Read the report
Playworks at Detoit Lions game during halftime

Playworks Implementation in 17 Schools from 6 U.S. Cities

This report shares implementation findings from a randomized controlled trial of Playworks conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University.

Read the report
2009-14 Playworks

Effects on Play, Physical Activity and Recess

This report shares findings on physical activity, play and recess in Playworks schools from a randomized controlled trial conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University.

Read the report

Series//See Playworks in Action

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  1. See how Playworks transforms recess and play into a positive experience that helps kids get the most out of every learning opportunity throughout the school day. 

    • Creating a New Social Norm
    • Playworks
    1
  2. 2

See how Playworks transforms recess and play into a positive experience that helps kids get the most out of every learning opportunity throughout the school day. 

  • Creating a New Social Norm
  • Playworks

See how Playworks transforms recess and play into a positive experience that helps kids get the most out of every learning opportunity throughout the school day. 

  • Creating a New Social Norm
  • Playworks

See how Playworks transforms recess and play into a positive experience that helps kids get the most out of every learning opportunity throughout the school day. 

  • Creating a New Social Norm
  • Playworks