In the rush to produce geniuses, are we forgetting the value of play

10 Mar

Children are not “mini mes” or short adults. They are children and they should have time to play, to dream, and to use their imagination. Dan Childs of ABC News reports in the story, Recess ‘Crucial’ for Kids, Pediatricians’ Group Says:

The statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest salvo in the long-running debate over how much of a young child’s time at school should be devoted to academics — and how much should go to free, unstructured playtime.
The authors of the policy statement write that the AAP “believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
“The AAP has, in recent years, tried to focus the attention of parents, school officials and policymakers on the fact that kids are losing their free play,” said the AAP’s Dr. Robert Murray, one of the lead authors of the statement. “We are overstructuring their day. … They lose that creative free play, which we think is so important.”
The statement, which cites two decades worth of scientific evidence, points to the various benefits of recess. While physical activity is among these, so too are some less obvious boons such as cognitive benefits, better attention during class, and enhanced social and emotional development. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/recess-crucial-kids-aap-policy-statement/story?id=18083935#.UOZ606zIlIq

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn.

Debbie Rhea wrote the thoughtful Education Week commentary, Give Students Time to Play:

It seems counterintuitive to think that less classroom time and more outdoor play would lead to a better education for kids. After all, what many in our country, including most recently New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have prescribed are longer days in the classroom. But longer days on task don’t equate to better results. Instead, they translate into more burnout, lower test scores, and more of the same. All work and no play really does make dull boys and girls.
For years, educators have tried different strategies of more testing and of more time on task to reverse these trends, but they have proved to be unsuccessful. The answer is not additional in-class sitting time. What kids need is time to move and have unstructured play.
On a recent sabbatical, I spent six weeks in Finland studying how that country practices education. Reading, science, and math are important in the Finnish education system, but so are social studies, physical education, arts, music, foreign languages, and a number of practical skills. The school day in Finland looks much different from the school day in the United States.
“We should not sacrifice recess time for classroom time, and neither should be used to discipline students.”
In the United States, for example, a 1st grader attends school 35 hours a week, seven hours a day. In Finland, a 1st grader spends 22.5 hours a week in school, or 4.5 hours a day. Three hours each day are spent on content in the classroom, and another 1.5 hours are spent on recess or “unstructured outdoor play.” Some elementary schools in the United States do not have recess time built into their schedules, let alone outdoor recess.
Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.
When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes. Gravity begins to pool blood into the hamstrings, robbing the brain of needed oxygen and glucose, or brain fuel. The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. Moving and being active stimulates the neurons that fire in the brain. When you are sitting, those neurons don’t fire.
Getting students out of their chairs and moving outdoors is essential. A 2008 study published in JAMA Opthamology found that 42 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 54 are nearsighted. But 40 years ago, that number was only 25 percent, a change that can’t be explained by heredity. Time indoors can weaken our vision, especially if we are staring at computer screens and not looking away for long periods of time. Additional studies have also shown that when people have inadequate daylight exposure at work, particularly in areas that have poor indoor lighting, it can disrupt their circadian rhythms—the cycle that allows for healthy sleep. When these rhythms are thrown off, it can have a negative impact on academic performance.
I’m such a believer in more unstructured outdoor play and recess throughout the day that I’ve launched a pilot program called Project ISIS—Innovating Strategies, Inspiring Students—that is being implemented in two Texas private schools, with an additional three public elementary schools in that state coming on board by the fall. While the program doesn’t reduce the number of hours spent at school, it does build in more outside recess time. Students get two 15-minute unstructured outdoor-play breaks in the morning (one is right before lunch, the other is a full lunch with a short recess afterward), and then two more 15-minute recess breaks in the afternoon. These schools will continue to have physical education as a content area.
We should not sacrifice recess time for classroom time, and neither should be used to discipline students. The more movement children have throughout the day, the better they will be with attentional focus, behavioral issues, and academic performance…. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/26/22rhea.h33.html?tkn=VRYFMBKESIDvZIGHetFWpKk1lBN%2FPqxFrjSh&intc=es

We must not so over-schedule children that they have no time to play and to dream. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Related:

The ‘whole child’ approach to education
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-whole-child-approach-to-education/

Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools
https://drwilda.com/2011/12/15/childhood-obesity-recess-is-being-cut-in-low-income-schools/

Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests
https://drwilda.com/2012/05/08/louisiana-study-fit-children-score-higher-on-standardized-tests/

Seattle Research Institute study about outside play
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/tag/childrens-physical-activity/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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One Response to “In the rush to produce geniuses, are we forgetting the value of play”

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  1. University of Colorado Boulder study: Children need flexible play time | drwilda - June 29, 2014

    […] The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. https://drwilda.com/2014/03/10/in-the-rush-to-produce-geniuses-are-we-forgetting-the-value-of-play/ […]

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