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Frisco ISD's 'Brain Break' Program Expands Following Positive Reviews

FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Students in some school North Texas districts will notice something new in their class schedules this year. Gone are the days having recess merely once a day.

Frisco ISD calls them brain breaks. For 10 to 15 minutes, students can step away from their work and play.

Kids will take one brain break in addition to the 30-minute recess they already receive.

"A brain break is whatever it is the kids want," said Jenna Fahrney, a kindergarten teacher at McSpadden Elementary in Frisco.

McSpadden Elementary participated in pilot program last year. The school even set aside a "brain break" area outside, separate from its typical playground for recess.

This year Frisco ISD announced the brain breaks program will extend to all 42 elementary schools.

Fahrney said after her students started taking a brain break, she noticed a change.

"They were more engaged in the afternoons, they were willing to listen, they could sit longer, they got more meaningful instruction in the afternoons," Fahrney said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics considers recess a "crucial" part of a child's development.

A study found recess fosters creativity and social skills, as well as the obvious physical benefits.

Frisco ISD play time
Frisco ISD play time (CBS 11)

That's why Dr. Debbie Rhea said she's against a single brain break. Instead, she wants four.

"We have allowed recess to go away," Rhea said. "There's a lot of schools out there that have zero recess."

Rhea created the Let's Inspire Innovation 'N Kids project, or LIINK, which pushes for more physical activity in schools. LIINK partners with several districts including Irving ISD, Little Elm ISD, Arlington ISD, Eagle-Mountain Saginaw ISD and White Settlement ISD, in addition to local schools such as Trinity Valley School and Starpoint School in Fort Worth.

In addition to typical recess, LIINK schools schedule four, 15-minute breaks of daily unstructured play. Rhea said neither poor grades nor bad behavior can jeopardize that time.

"The reason they're being bad in the first place for the most part is because they're not getting to play," Rhea said.

Around the playground, most parents tend to agree.

"I don't think there's too much for recess," said Valerie Alexander. "Every kid needs a break from their studies."

Recess is by no means mandatory. By state law, Texas requires at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity in kindergarten through 6th grade.

That means districts could potentially forego recess and instead put that time toward gym class.

Last legislative session Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would've paved the way for recess policies.

"Requiring the state and its school districts to churn out more policies and mandates about recess is just bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake," Abbott wrote.

If parents are concerned their kids are not getting enough recess time or physical activity, they should contact their local school board about potential changes.

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