Educators, researchers, and parents are realizing how important recess time is for a student’s development. North Central State College Occupational Therapy Assistant students are using a program called Refreshing Recess which focuses on embedding strategies throughout the day to help all children become mentally healthy in order to succeed in school, at home and in the community.
The OTA students have brought the initiative into the Colonel Crawford Local Schools. During the six-week program students from the occupational therapy assistant program meet at Hannah Crawford Elementary School during recess to provide activities meant to bring the students together as a unit.
Cindy Cornell, Occupational Therapist and Fieldwork Coordinator at NC State explains how the program is impacting the students. “The program itself is really centered on children’s positive mental health experiences,” she says. “So making sure that kids learn ways to work together, build friendships, learn social skills, and how to interact with one another is important.”
OTA students at NC State College learn how to help those whose lives have been disrupted by a developmental or learning disability, a physical injury or illness, aging, as well as social and/or psychological challenges.
“We’ve done activities like a giant tug of war, obstacle courses, and even a parachute activity,” Cornell says. “We work on a lot of teamwork that makes the kids feel included and a part of recess. There are studies that show students learn better when they get recess. It’s important for the physical activity and gives them a break in the day. So if we can make them productive and positive, they tend to engage more in the classroom.”
Refreshing Recess has helped the students immensely since day one. Cindy Voss, principal at Hannah Crawford Elementary is grateful for the partnership between the school and North Central State College. She says, “The Occupational Therapy assistant students are giving us some great ideas of what we might want to try with our students later and implement into our recess program.”
“It’s been a program to help kids develop ways of including everybody at recess. If someone is sitting by themselves, they are now encouraged to engage and feel included, and that’s one of the main goals of the program whether we are having indoor or outdoor recess.”
Voss says the OTA program with NC State students has also has changed some of the mundane activities the students are used to during recess. “They run, play kickball, and climb on the climbers. That’s great but there are some kids who get bored with those types of activities and it’s great to change it up a bit.”
Alli Sparr and Zachery Danner are both OTA students participating in the program. Alli says, “We are implementing occupational therapy into what we are teaching the kids. We are trying to get all of them involved and engaged.”
Danner says they are able to use the curriculum they learned in the classroom. “We are implementing the OT process into it,” Danner explains. “We get the students involved in teamwork. They are more engaged and it seems to be working very well.”
The Occupational Therapy Assistant program plans to continue the Refreshing Recess activities in the future.