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TCU professor’s research shows benefits of recess

By Molly Jenkins


Photo: Students playing at recess, courtesy of Dr. Debbie Rhea


Recess works.

That’s the finding of TCU professor Dr. Debbie Rhea’s research on how outdoor breaks can be beneficial to classroom behavior.

The pilot programs involved in Rhea’s LiiNK Project reduced classroom time, including time spent preparing for and taking standardized tests, and instead added more time for recess.

TCU’s Starpoint was one of the first schools to pilot the program. There have been zero discipline issues, grades are great, students are on task, and students get along better, said Dr. Marilyn Tolbert, director of lab schools at TCU.

Rhea said the results at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth were similar. The results were recently featured on the TODAY Show.

“Let’s Inspire Innovation ‘N Kids,” started in 2012, with small programs at Starpoint and Trinity Valley School, said Rhea, who is also the associate dean of research in the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

The training sessions for the larger programs began in fall 2013 and launched in spring 2014, she said.

Tolbert said Starpoint teachers were hesitant, especially when it came to having enough time to cover their curriculum.

As teachers see the results from the project, their doubts about losing minutes are fading.

“They’re going to lose minutes,” said Rhea. “But in reality…they are doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less time than the kids who are in the other schools.”

Talya Oral, a TCU early childhood education major, said she was impressed with the results.

“I would definitely implement the LiiNK program,” Oral said.

Rhea said the reaction to her TODAY Show appearance has been positive, and schools across both Texas and the country have contacted her.

“You know it sped me up about five years,” Rhea said.

Rhea said plans call for the LiiNK Project to expand state by state. Tolbert agrees.

“I’m excited to see that some of the other bigger districts are taking it on,” Tolbert said. “I hope five years from now it’s nationwide.”

Currently, there are a variety of contacts across the country, from Ohio to California, that want to join the LiiNK Project, said Rhea.

“I want to make sure what we are doing is good for the kids and good for the teachers and good for their learning environment,” Rhea said.

There are already plans for new groups of schools to join the LiiNK Project this coming fall.

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