A Recess Enhancement Program coach leads students in an activity at P.S. 134 in Manhattan. (Photo courtesy Asphalt Green)
When recess facilitators encouraged city students to jump rope or play tag during recess, girls were more likely to get moving and boys were less likely to get into fights, according to a study released this week.
The study looks at the Recess Enhancement Program, a decade-old program in which coaches enter city schools during their recess periods to organize and facilitate games that encourage physical activity. The program is run by Asphalt Green, a non-profit trying to combat childhood obesity, and currently operates in 34 city schools.
The program was founded in 2001 at six schools and is set to grow to 75 schools by 2013.
The study, conducted by a professor and graduate students from Hunter College, used an observation rubric to compare "enhanced recess" at 20 schools to traditional recess at 12 schools. The researchers found that students in traditional recess programs were four times more likely to verbally attack each other and show other signs of aggression. They also found that overall vigorous activity was nearly 50 percent higher among girls and boys ages 9 to 11 at schools where REP coaches offered games.
Just over one in five children in New York City's elementary and middle schools is considered obese, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. New York was the only city to see its childhood obesity rate decline in the last five years.
Farid Reyes, principal of P.S. 103, brought REP into his Bronx elementary school when he became principal in 2010. A combination of unstructured indoor and outdoor recess was offered at the Wakefield school in years past, but the changes after introducing the new program were well worth its $2,000 price tag, he said.