Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Roger Hart

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology


conflict, leadership, obesity, physical activity, play, recess


As time demands for schooling increase and children's freedom to play is under threat, the question of how play during school recess can best be designed to serve children has grown in importance. This research examines whether a peer-training program can influence children's activity choices and social behaviors and reduce conflict on elementary school playgrounds during recess and what aspects of such a peer-training program are important to this goal. Three general recess issues are considered: conflict, activity level and choice, and gender inclusion. The data was collected as part of a Recess Enhancement Program in a select group of 21 participating elementary schools in New York City in 2003 and 2004. The research questions focused on recess before and after the intervention, and how the program changed the dynamics of play in these schools. A mixed methods technique, including observations, interviews, focuses groups, and surveys were used. Over the course of a school year, conflict rates decreased, activity levels increased in some schools (and decreased in others), and gender inclusive play decreased. The selection of the Student Leaders was the most critical aspect of the recess program's success, and high staff turnover provided challenges to its implementation. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of implications for how recess is planned and managed in schools and what kinds of further experimentation and research is required to address the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of play.