For decades, a typical day of primary school has involved two short (approximately 15-20 minutes) breaks or recesses; one occurring in the morning and one in the afternoon. A longer lunch period (approximately 50-60 minutes) would occur at or around 12:00 noon. Within the last 15 years, a new idea, the balanced school model, has been tested in a number of schools throughout North America.
Two Significant Breaks for Eating and Play
The balanced school day breaks up instructional, meal, and break time in a much different way than the normal school day experienced in most primary schools. A typical balanced school day schedule consists of three 100-minute sections of instruction broken up by two 35 to 55-minute eating and outdoor activity sections.
The non-instructional sections involve 15-20-minutes for eating and 20-35-minutes of outdoor physical activity. It is suggested that keeping children nutritionally satisfied throughout their school day allows them to concentrate and learn more efficiently. By allowing two opportunities for young learners to grab a bite to eat, school systems may increase their students’ learning potential.
The two activity breaks provide students with a chance to get moving and, in turn, increase their energy levels. At the end of each outdoor play time, children come back into the classroom, ready to concentrate on another lesson. Whether the activity is a spontaneous game of tag or an organized soccer game, any form of exercise will benefit all of those involved.
Nutrition Break Lunch and Snack Ideas
Two eating breaks does not mean that parents need to do twice the work when it comes to preparing lunches for their children. A sandwich, that is likely cut in half anyway, can be wrapped or bagged separately. The same separation technique can be done with sliced fruits and vegetables, crackers, cheese, and other healthy snacks.
Try to include foods from at least three of the four food groups. When cooking dinners, make a little extra and pack it for lunches. On the weekends, spend some quality family time baking healthy and delicious snacks such as muffins and granola bars. Planning a week of snacks and lunches in advance can save a lot of time and stress. A number of healthy menu plans can be found online.
The two daily food breaks can be planned in a number of different ways. A few common examples are to have a breakfast-like first meal and a lunch-like second meal, a snack at the first break and a bigger lunch at the second break, or to equally separate the two and provide half of the snack and half of the lunch for each food break.
Balanced School Day Research
The balanced school day model has been implemented in Canada. School divisions in Ontario and Manitoba have tried, and many continue to follow, this new-style school day. While not a lot of research has been conducted on the success of the program, there have been a few studies completed.
An Examination of the Balanced School Day Schedule compiled by three women involved with the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board, looks at both the advantages and disadvantages of the model. In a 2010 news story conducted with Manitoba’s Interlake School Division, Superintendent Ross Metcalfe had glowing reviews for the benefits provided by the program.
Whether schools run a balanced school day or a normal school day, one thing is definitely true for school-aged children and the public in general: a balanced diet and regular daily exercise are important for your health.