Leisure Education in the Schools: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for All Children and Youth: A Position Paper Presented to the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation Taskforce on Leisure Education in the Schools-Executive Summary

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  Perhaps the most deep-seated antithesis which has shown itself in
  education history is that between education in preparation for
  useful labor and education for a life of leisure--John Dewey (1939)

Over 50 years ago, leisure, recreation, and play experts in the United States asserted that "no educational system in the world has such a unique role in education for leisure as the American schools" (AAHPER, 1961, p. 24). Of the various influences on leisure and recreation, public education may have the greatest potential of all. The educational community remains the most critical setting for providing learning experiences that can translate into, and ultimately form, a young person's leisure experience for a lifetime. But whether done in school or outside of it, the purpose of leisure education is to enable individuals to enhance the quality of their lives through leisure. The essential goals of leisure education are (a) to obtain the necessary recreation participation skills, (b) to recognize the array of valuable opportunities available during leisure time, and (c) to learn to make decisions regarding one's own use of discretionary time that leads to personal satisfaction, health, and enrichment. Leisure education is recognized as an integral part of personal development and the lifelong learning process.

A significant rationale for leisure education in schools is that free time is a cause of and context for a lot of the problems of today's youth, including delinquency, violence, alcohol and drug use and abuse, early and unprotected sexual activity, and obesity. In-deed, much of the motivation for such activities is tied to sensation-seeking and excitement and even competence and belonging. The boredom that leads to health-compromising behaviors may be the result of a limited leisure repertoire and thus may be remedied by leisure education. Youth can benefit from reducing or relieving risks and from adding strengths or assets through participation in leisure and recreational activities. In addition, for many children the lack of learning opportunities in their homes, schools, and communities hinders their full human development. Infusing leisure education concepts into the school environment can provide some youth with their first taste of lifelong leisure experiences. Moreover, these experiences also lead to potential work and education-related opportunities that assist young adults to achieve and succeed.

Over the past 80 years, leisure education's relationship with the public schools has progressed from one of facility sharing, to infusion in the curriculum, to the revival of after-school programs linking leisure opportunities with individual growth and facilitation of family, community, and societal needs. Recent after-school programs have been designed with recreation and leisure skill-related activities to enhance the learning process, and they play a major role in the student's social, physical, and leisure development. However, there is a great and continued need for quality leisure education in schools and parks.

There are a number of practical considerations that are important when infusing leisure education into schools. These include placement of the programs within the overall school curriculum, training of leisure educators, formats and contexts for programs, use of technology, and budget constraints.

It is important that the outcomes associated with these programs connect with (a) educational standards set forth by states, provinces, nations, or other governing bodies and (b) goals that are important to healthy human development and well-being. …