Are Schools Modeling Healthy Behaviors?

Yesterday, I had the honor of talking with these amazing people. Aimie and Daniel Stillings are traveling the country and the world to create a documentary on Nature Play.

As I sat and spoke with Aimie, yesterday, I started to process and think more and more about the tests our Children are being required to take about every 4th day school.  The tests that they all prepare to take in 3rd – 10th (and now 11th) grades. The fact that we are “teaching” all children all the way down to Kindergarten to “take tests.”  (Bubble in the correct answer)

How does this relate to health?  Our schools are where our children learn the behaviors they will have for a lifetime.  Yes, many habits and such are learned from the parents, but ask most parents of high school students and you will find they are learning “new” habits while at school.

Documentary_image

 

  • Our children are being asked to SIT for 6-7 hours a day
  • Our children are given twenty (20) minutes to eat their lunch
  • Our children are being denied recess
  • Physical Education classes are being scaled way back
  • Our children are being asked to complete page after page of worksheets, even in Kindergarten
  • Administrators and teachers are telling them that walking from one class to another is considered “a break”
  • Our children are being rewarded for good behavior or correct answers with candy, pizza parties, and the like
  • Our children are being TESTED every 3-4 days

Our country is in dire straights when you consider the health of our nation.  80% of the top 4 health problems in the United States are preventable through daily lifestyle choices!

2013_Obesity_Rates

We ask our children to sit at their desks and pay attention for 6-7 hours a day – as young as Kindergarten.

sitting_epidemic

By asking our children to sit still for 6 hours a day we are modeling risky behavior for their future health. Studies are showing that sitting for long periods can be VERY detrimental to our health:

Sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” ~ Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic

Many of our children are given 20 minutes to eat their lunch, if this includes their travel time and time in line to purchase that meal, this can quickly whittle down to 10-12 minutes to eat. This models poor eating habits that can stretch into a lifetime of issues.  What happens when we eat too quickly?  Check out the information from LiveStrong on the topic of eating too fast.

Our children are being denied recess!

With all the stress being placed on test scores, there just isn’t time for recess! We need another 15 minutes for English Language Arts or Math class.  All fine and dandy, but what good is a test score when you are out of shape, your body begins falling apart in your 2o’s and you are spending days, months and years in doctor’s offices, medical centers and hospitals.  Not to mention, the plethora of research pointing to children retaining more information and grasping information better when given a break and then coming back to the classroom!

How many of us would willingly take a job with 13 minutes to eat and no “breaks” during the day.

Recess 

Our child is lucky, she gets PE 3 times a week! Many districts across the United states, AND our higher grade levels are NOT being given physical education classes.  Those are considered optional classes and if the student requires remedial action due to another test score, these options are no longer on the table. 

I remember in grade school, Mr. Jones taught us how to “fall down correctly.”  Told us that if we learned and then used it if we fell, we would not hurt ourselves as badly. We thought it was really silly at the time, as an adult, I now see the importance of all he taught us about moving on a daily basis to stay healthy!  Our students need to learn to stay active, they need to be taught to enjoy activities so they can remain physically strong and healthy.  When our muscles atrophy due to inactivity we begin feeling more and more pain on a daily basis.  I do NOT want that for my child or any other child!

Worksheets are the norm!

Gone are the days of make believe, kitchen sets, dress up clothes and such.  Our children are no longer, for the most part, encouraged to move around and explore and learn through play – even in kindergarten our children sit at desks most of the day and complete worksheets.  They move to the carpet for story time, then return to their seats to complete an activity worksheet on the story.  Movement is gone from the classroom due to the perception of chaos and the need to score better on end of course exams… YES, END OF COURSE EXAMS FOR OUR KINDERGARTEN STUDENTS.

Moving from your seat to the restroom or another classroom is not enough to be called a break!

What would be your thoughts if your boss told you that your breaks would consist of the time you spent walking from your desk to a colleague’s desk, or the restroom, or the copy machine.  I have actually had administrators tell us that this is a break because they are not being asked to complete work at this time!  I THINK NOT!

Candy is your reward for a correct answer!

So, our children are snarfing down their lunch, not given time to play and move around, sitting for hours and slowing their metabolism and when they answer a question correctly or do something good, they are rewarded with a piece of candy or a mini-marshmallow?  How is this modeling healthy behaviors?  Having a pizza party because their class won a competition is NOT modeling healthy behaviors.  Perhaps, they could be rewarded with some additional time on a PLAYGROUND and be allowed to PLAY!

I was NOT rewarded with a skittle in class if I answered correctly and I still learned and fell in LOVE with learning!  If our classrooms have sunk so low that we must entice our children like Pavlov’s Dogs in order to get them to answer, we have some huge problems.

Finally, our children are being tested every 3-4 days as mandated by districts, states, and our federal government.

I liken this to someone hired for a new job.  You are told to learn on the go and not take breaks. Every 3-4 days someone comes in and administers an exam to you on what you have been learning. The test was not written by someone familiar with your industry so it is difficult to know how to answer the questions.  You will never be allowed to review the test, so you will be unable to discover exactly what you missed and where you made the error. 

Would you be stressed in an environment such as this? Of course you would be stressed!  So are our children.

HOW TO FIX IT!

The dialog has begun.  Parents have begun standing up and speaking out to fix our public schools for our children.

SPEAK OUT!  – Your child is our future! Your child’s future should be a future of joy and learning, and good health!

When we eliminate the high stakes testing, ALL high stakes testing, there will no longer be any need to eliminate recess, no need to eliminate Physical Education classes, no need to rush through meals, and no need to sit for 6 hours a day to complete worksheet after worksheet.  When our children are taught to LOVE LEARNING there is no need to bribe them with candy or treats.

Join your local group working toward eliminating high stakes testing, talk with your board of education, and vote!  For the health of our children and the health of our nation, PLEASE STAND UP!!!

Thank you

https://www.facebook.com/HealthySchoolsLee

http://unitedoptout.com/

If you would like additional information about groups in your area, or how to begin a group in your area, please contact me.

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