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Teacher Marie Hyson had read stories to calm her Matthew C. Perry Elementary School students after lunchtime recess when they blew in from the playground.

But the 15 minutes or so of reading is no longer necessary, Hyson said. Her first-, second- and third-graders at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station now return to class calm and focused.

Since school began last month, M.C. Perry is seeing signs of an uptick in student attentiveness and performance and a decrease in disciplinary actions after the midday break, according to school officials.

The change, they say, is due to a simple but effective reversal of the traditional school schedule started this year: Students are now sent to recess before eating lunch.

M.C. Perry is the first elementary school in the Pacific to try the reversal, though it has been used at Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe.

"I think [students] have actually played hard and calmed themselves down," Hyson said. "It seems like when recess is after lunch they get all hyped up."

The school cites a list of benefits from holding playground recess before lunch — more food eaten and less wasted, more water and milk consumed, calmer students in the cafeteria and classroom, and a faster return to learning.

The recess-before-lunch method breaks with more traditional schedules that send students to gobble down food before running out to the playground before afternoon classes begin.

Hyson said she was unsure about the change when she heard it would go into effect this school year.

"I am willing to try anything but I was skeptical," she said. "I didn’t see as much chaos as I was expecting … I have seen great results."

M.C. Perry Principal Shelia Cary said she was introduced to the idea while working at the DODDS district in Heidelberg, Germany.

"We saw a significant decrease in the number of discipline issues after lunch," she said. "Also, we noticed that the kids, when they came in from recess, they were eating more lunch and consuming more drink."

Iwakuni students’ initial reactions were mixed, school officials said. But Cary said M.C. Perry has been seeing good things since the new school year began.

"Absolutely, it’s a change for the positive," she said.

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