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Medford-Patchogue School District Doubles Recess Time

MEDFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Officials at a Long Island school district think happier kids are smarter kids, so they are increasing the time that students spend in recess.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, parents said fun and games teach more than they are given credit for.

Many districts have been cutting back on recess or even doing away with it in recent years. But the Patchogue-Medford School District has doubled recess time, from 20 minutes to 40.

The superintendent said it is in response to over-testing and over-stressing that has created anxious, depressed kids.

"A child's experience is no longer fun within school, and so with bringing recess back, it's one of the first steps to incorporate what we're looking at as the whole child," said Patchogue-Medford District Supt. Dr. Michael Hynes.

Longer recess is now in effect for all 3,000 kids grades K-5. In bad weather, it is replaced by creative playroom.

Kids now say they are suddenly popping out of bed for school.

"I feel really excited now," said third grader Madison Eddington. "I can't wait to go to school."

"The kids need the play," said parent Andrea Garsik. "They need to get this energy out, and it's going to make learning better."

The 20 minutes is shaved from traditional classroom time before and after lunch, creating 80 continuous minutes of unstructured socialization.

"Play is the highest form of learning, and when children play, they collaborate. They learn empathy, vocabulary, problem solving," said Tremont Elementary School principal Lori Koerner.

But not everyone equates playtime with learning.

"It's becoming more of a social event than a learning experience," said Fred Gorman, founder of the watchdog group "You have to understand – learning is not easy. It's meant to improve one's mind. You don't improve one's mind with recess."

But school officials said they are teaching smarter. They said all work and no play causes kids to lose energy and focus.

"I don't think we're going overboard," said school board member Teresa Baldinucci. "I mean, if you even look at corporate America, some of the most successful corporations are incorporating play into their day."

Teachers said with the new recess policy, kids return to the classroom recharged. To help calm that energy, they will soon teach yoga and meditation too.

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