South Carolina Should Follow Experts’ Advice on Elementary School Recess Allotments

Amanda McDougald Scott, Ph.D.
2 min readAug 24, 2022

Comments provided to Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees August 23, 2022

I would like to start my comments today with a question:

Who among us does not benefit from breaks, including opportunities to move around and socialize, during the day?

Today, I am presenting as both a parent and an academic researcher whose first job in academia was working on a study examining the impact of exercise on executive functioning, academic achievement, and overall health among overweight children — with one of our nation’s top experts on this topic.

I called Dr. Catherine Davis to consult with her before coming to you today, to make sure there was nothing I was missing in the field, and am coming to you with the best evidence-based recommendations possible.

The Society of Behavioral Medicine issued a statement — co-authored by Dr. Catherine Davis — recommending that elementary school children should be receiving at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise opportunities each day. Compared to the 15–30 minutes a day for recess our elementary students are receiving each day, there is a large gap between what our experts recommend for our children and what they are receiving.

Evidence has indicated that among the benefits of these opportunities for breaks and movement throughout the day included improved academic performance, improved cognition, aerobic fitness, and improved mood. Additionally, improved standardized test scores and grade point averages have been reported as benefits of access to opportunities to engage in more physical activity. Executive functioning also can benefit from physical activity breaks, with evidence of improved attention and time on task.

Research has also provided ample evidence that spending time outdoors improves our mood and cognition — so with all these reports, it is reasonable to conclude that outdoor recess time and opportunities for movement can provide both physical and psychological benefit.

After spending time looking for any report that doesn’t place the South Carolina public education system among the bottom ten in the nation, I ask why we cannot find additional time in the school day for a more developmentally-appropriate approach to our elementary education. Perhaps increasing access to physical activity, movement, and outdoor time is a great place to start.

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Amanda McDougald Scott, Ph.D.

Advocate for social justice, mom to a 5-year-old, partner, friend. Political, child care, early childhood, psychology, and health care wonk.