The More Kids Get Moving, The Better They Do In School

Hi Readers — I was just going to tweet this, but it’s such a cool story, I’m providing the link here. A high school in Naperville, Illinois is holding gym class first period for some kids who struggle with academics. The idea is: Switch on the body and the brain switches on, too. And even in the classrooms there are bikes and balls. (Stationary bikes, that is. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure how much learning the kids would stick around for.)

The program has been running (so to speak) for five years and the students in it are now reading 1.5 years ahead of grade level, according to the story.  So instead of chipping away at recess, as some schools are doing to make extra time for test prep, maybe we should start chipping away at test prep to make time for bouncy balls and square dancing. — Lenore

Gym Class Humiliation Can Cause a Lifetime of Inactivity

Hi Readers! Bad gym teacher = bad life. I KNEW it. And now, that’s what this cool study by Billy Strean, a professor in the University of Alberta’s  Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, has just confirmed: “A lifelong negative attitude toward physical activity can be determined by either a good or bad experience, based on the personal characteristics of the coach or instructor. For example…a teacher who has low energy, is unfair and/or someone who embarrasses students.”

Maybe that’s why I was always so scared of my gym teachers! (Well, that and the fact I couldn’t get off the knot when we had to climb ropes. And the fact I couldn’t make a basket. And the fact I could never touch my toes. And — I’ll stop now.)

Anyway, as fascinating as the topic of gym and gym teachers is, what really jazzed me was the bottom paragraph of the study:

Strean also found study participants had better experiences from minimally organized games such as street hockey, compared to the more organized activities. He suggests adults try not to over-organize sports and allow the children to explore sporting activities on their own, with minimal rules and no scorekeeping.

Right on! Let the kids make up their own games! Give play time back to the players! My good ol’ book has a whole chapter on how important “free-play” turns out to be, vis a vis child development. Nice to see this backed by yet more evidence. And from a professor of recreation, no less! Hey kids — go outside and PLAY! The professor says you have to!   — Lenore

Study: More Gym + Nutrition Ed Doesn’t Slim Kids Down (And I Think I Know Why)

Cool entry on the “Alas, A Blog” blog   questioning the conventional wisdom that holds: If only kids had more gym, health and nutrition classes, they’d all slim down. An eight-year study of about 1700 kids gave half of them a greatly enhanced gym/nutrition/health curriculum (and healthier cafeteria food), while the other half got the same old same old.  Kids were measured in third grade and again in fifth and surprise (there goes the grant!), there was no difference in the two groups as far as weight was concerned.

The “Alas” blogger rightly asks whether weight should matter anyway: If the group with the gym curriculum was more active, happy or fit, that certainly seems more important than whether they could squeeze into smaller undies. But MY point is that I’m not surprised by the outcome, because it’s not just gym that makes a difference in kids’ lives. It’s what kids do OUTSIDE of school, too.

BEYOND GYM

When principals forbid them to ride their bikes to school (and I’ll post a another Outrage about that soon),  when  parents are afraid to let them go to the park, when their friends are not allowed to venture out the front door, what can kids do before or after school except hang out inside?

And what generally happens there? They’re not jogging in place while poking around YouTube. And if they’re watching TV, cue the dancing Pop-Tarts! Even organized sports programs don’t offer the insurance of exercise (or fun). When my kids were playing on our local Y’s baseball team, they stood around for about 60 of the 90 minutes, waiting in the outfield for a ball that never came, or waiting for their turn at bat that felt like it would never come, or eating the snack that always DID come, because we parents were required to schlep it. (Why was snack a requirement, anyway?)

In short: We can program as much health as we want into the curriculum, and as the sister of a former high school health-ed teacher, I say: Yay! Let’s do it! I’m all for health class. BUT until we start letting kids get out there and organize their own games of tag, and kick ball and roll down the steep, rocky hill (okay, maybe not that one — Free-Range has its limits), they’re going to be inside. Who’s dancing and prancing and getting all that healthy exercise in  there?

Looks like the Pop-Tarts.  — Lenore, who thanks Kelly Hogaboom for sending this story in.  Kelly’s blog is right here!