by Neal Brown, Green Acres School, Head of School
We know about the rise of ADHD diagnoses among school age children. We read about the rise of standardized testing in schools across the country—and about the pressures that these tests put on educators to have children spend more time in academic classes than in PE, music, and arts classes, or outside at recess, or engaged in interactive, project-based learning experiences. Despite years of research to the contrary, we still somehow believe that having kids sitting and listening is still the most effective way for them to learn. And we discount the vital role that PE and the arts have in developing children’s brains.
Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, wrote this three-part series for the Post. Aside from chronicling the way in which inactivity negatively impacts kids’ ability to learn, Ms. Hanscom actually spent a full day in a middle school. She found the experience—which many middle school students across the country experience every day—intolerable and excruciating. The inactivity led this adult (with no known attention deficits) to fidget and to lose her focus, not to mention the impact it had on her desire to learn overall, or even to return for a second day!
As we think about how Middle School students learn best, it might be simplest to think about how we as adults learn best—the experiences that we need that will keep us engaged, stimulate our interest in learning more, and promote deep and lasting learning of knowledge and skills.