The Secret Behind Finland's Super Smart School Kids? Recess.

The World

In Finnish schools, physical activity extends well beyond the playground. Movement is an integral part of music class for this group of third graders at the Yhtenäiskoulu in Helsinki. (Photo: Sauli Pillay)

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences adds to a growing body of research that suggests a positive correlation between exercise and academic performance. In recent years, many American schools have slashed gym class and recess for more time on reading and math in order to improve standardized test scores. Meanwhile, in Finland, recess has long been considered an essential part of the school day and Finnish children get on average more than an hour of recess a day, no matter what the weather. That's one element in a school system that has attracted much international attention.