Dr. Michael Hynes, the superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford schools on Long Island in New York, wrote a letter to the New York Board of Regents asking them to mandate 40 minutes a day for recess.

In Finland, the highest performing nation in Europe, students have a recess after every class. Educators believe children need to run around and play and move for 10-15 minutes between classes, mostly out of doors. Finland has no standardized tests for students in elementary schools or in the middle grades. Finnish schools value creativity and physical activity. They must be doing something right. It is working.

And our educators must plead for only 40 minutes a day of physical activity!

Here is his video about the importance of recess.

And here is his letter to the State Superintendent and the Board of Regents:


Dear Commissioner Elia and members of the New York State Board of Regents:

On behalf of “whole child” educators and parents across the state of New York, I write to you to strongly consider and discuss a mandate that will benefit ALL children: a declaration that requires all Kindergarten-5th grade students to physically, emotionally, academically and socially benefit from 40 minutes of self-directed recess every day they are in our care at school.

I can certainly cite the multiple benefits about recess but I think this statement from the CDC best sums up why this is a worthy proposition:

Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.
Moreover, I have seen firsthand in my school district what regularly scheduled periods within the school day for unstructured physical activity and play has done for our elementary age students, staff and parents. I have never seen so many happy and well-adjusted children in my twenty years as an educator. I respectfully request that NYSED consider this discussion item and would be honored to speak about the rationale and benefits in person if requested to do so.

If the New York State Education Department truly wants to become a leader and advocate for what ALL children need and deserve, I believe this is an essential first step. I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

Michael J. Hynes, Ed.D.
Patchogue-Medford Superintendent of Schools