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Before we learn

Play is crucial for middle schoolers, too

Play is crucial for middle schoolers, too

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CHANTILLY, Va. – In Fairfax County, Virginia, thousands of middle school students experience what most of their peers leave behind in elementary school — recess.

The break is only 15 minutes long. But at Rocky Run Middle School, about 25 miles west of the nation’s capital, the seventh and eighth graders make the most of one of the few stretches of time in school that they can truly call their own. Fairfax County schools, a district of around 181,000 students, has taken an unusual step in mandating recess for all its middle school students.

On a day in early fall, a large group of students tossed their backpacks in a messy pile and made a beeline towards the school’s blacktop for pickup basketball and soccer games. A kickball game started up on the baseball field, with a teacher handling pitching duties to keep the action moving. Smaller groups of students headed to the school’s gym, while others peeled off towards the cafeteria to play board games, get in some extra study time with their Chromebooks, or just chat with their friends.