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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/105

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THE UTILITY OF SCHOOL-RECESSES.

implies a more rapid flow of the fluid through the hemal channels, and when we know that the carrying power of fluid currents increases as the sixth power of their velocities, we can appreciate with how much greater force these currents sweep through their courses, washing away the ashes, which have been made by previous combustion, from the brain-hearth and the muscle-hearth. To the child who has been busily engaged upon his lessons, it frequently happens that the further ability to accomplish mental work successfully, and without nervous debility, depends upon the thorough removal of the débris caused by cerebral exercise. When this removal has been accomplished by recreation, the child's power has been recreated. That pupils generally do their best school-work just after recess, and that they are less "nervous" at that time, is because the exercise has increased their nerve-power, and given them a better control of their intellectual faculties, and a greater willingness to do hard thinking. Muscular exercise, then, becomes a motive power for driving forward the machinery of thought.

Were there no other objection to this plan, the one that it keeps children away from the sunlight would still be enough to condemn it. When we see the boys and girls of this country gathering at the call of the school-bell at 9 a. m., and remaining till 4 p. m., away from the sunlight—except a few minutes' walk to and from dinner—and this continued from six to sixteen years of age, for five days in a week and ten months in a year, how can we help fearing that this school-life, however good it may be in other respects, can not fail to leave its pupils with emaciated bodies, attenuated limbs, and with a general strength much below the average of what it should be, and much below the average of what it must be, in order to give them that start in the struggle for existence which they must have if they would win; it is not possible to save them from this competition; all must meet it, and the power of physical endurance is an absolute necessity for success.

Neither Latin, Greek, grammar, nor geography, can give this power; but an hour's play in the sunshine daily, for this ten years of school-life, might do so.

Not only do the out-door recesses have the advantage of air and sunshine in good weather, but in bad weather they have the advantage of exposure also; and, contrary to the commonly accepted theories, exposure to inclement weather, in a reasonable degree and with proper care, is of very great advantage. For nine years past it has been my invariable practice, at four different periods daily, for a time aggregating ninety minutes, to supervise a play-ground where several hundred children of a public school assemble. I have observed that there are certain ones, some of each sex, who are seldom absent. No cold, except, perhaps, half a dozen days of the severest, and no storm except a most drenching rain, ever drives them into their school-rooms. Through all ordinary rains and snows they seem to feel no discomfort.