As teachers, we must prepare our students to be successful on the job market and technology is an important component. But the access that children today have to technology, and the high levels of screen time, may be detrimental to both motor and social skill development while increasing unhealthy sedentary time. Utilizing technology in a healthy, educational manner in the classroom is critical, as is understanding both the pros and cons of technology use. Read more here in an article on the Impact of Technology on Children’s Development with quotes from Dr. Gabbard and Dr. Liew of Texas A&M University.
An article published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that prevalence of obesity in American youth aged 2 to 19 is over 22%. There has been a general increase in childhood obesity over the past 30 years, with differing levels of change based upon age group. Current levels suggest that continued interventions are needed to address weight among children. Furthermore, programs that target prevention of unhealthy weight gain and promotion of health and physical activity are critical.
Link to JAMA article.
As of July 2, 2016, Tennessee law mandates that students in grades K-1 get 225 minutes of physical activity per week while in school and that students in grade 2-6 get 160 minutes of weekly activity. This is an increase from the previous 90 minutes of required physical activity per week, a mark that will continue in grade 7-12. The Tennessee Department of Education acknowledges it will be difficult to ‘find’ time for physical activity during the school day, but recognizes that the benefit to cognition, behavior, and academic performance has the potential to outweigh any barriers.
The research supports Tennessee’s decision. So let’s all be like Tennessee…and get kids moving!
See more about Tennessee’s policy on our “In the News” page.
An article by the Association for Childhood Education International entitled “Childhood Obesity and Testing: What Teachers Can Do” was shared on the TeachHub.com site in 2009. This piece, now 7 years old, offers a relatively concise overview of the relationship between obesity and academic performance for an educator who is seeking information. Citations throughout the article provide support for the five strategies proposed to address the issue at school. Although it doesn’t fit into the other sections of this website as it is not technically research, or news, or a resource, it is worthy of its own blog post…happy reading!
View the article here.
The UNICEF Kid Power Band is a partnership between UNICEF, Star Wars, and Target, and offers kids the chance to “unlock” food for malnourished children through activity. The idea combines the need for physical activity engagement among children in developed countries and the need for food for children in developing countries. One might hope that funds to feed malnourished children would be provided regardless of corresponding activity levels if the funds are available, but this concept does provide motivation to individuals with the band…and teaches children about giving to others. For more information, see the UNICEF Kid Power site. There is also a 44 second video to promote the program and to encourage kids to get active!
Recently, several schools across the country have increased the quantity of recess that early elementary students receive (see our In the News page). Preliminary qualitative results suggest that extended or additional recess breaks facilitate an improvement in students’ focus in the class. This is consistent with empirical research that supports a connection between physical activity and time on task in the classroom. However, this research would further support offering more recess minutes to students of all grade levels. One can hypothesize that schools are hesitant to adopt this practice in standardized testing grades, but studies show that adding physical activity time is not detrimental to academic performance. As such, teachers and administrators are encouraged to consider how to increase physical activity and recess time across elementary school. Let’s get kids moving!
Update: Video link about the increased recess program (Jan. 18, 2016)
The White House has requested $700,000 in funds for standing desks, prompting a social media debate about the cost-benefit analysis of standing desks. This article offers several of the benefits of standing instead of sitting at work, including links to relevant evidence, while this article includes both support and public backlash for the idea. Perhaps purposefully, in three articles including this one, there are accompanying photos of President Obama standing behind the seated desk in the Oval Office.
Considering the “no press is bad press” cliche, this White House proposal is furthering the discussion on the detrimental health impact of a sedentary lifestyle and promoting activity. Let’s take a stand!
This article, published last month, looks at some of the ways South Carolina schools are bringing movement and activity to students during the school day. The instigator of the new programming says, “This is unbelievably hard to sell,” and yet there has been initial success in increasing opportunities. We need to continue to educate teachers and educational policy makers on the benefits of activity, both for health and for academic performance. And we must celebrate those who are promoting activity in classroom, like David Spurlock, the coordinator of health, wellness and physical education for the Charleston County School District.
This blog, from August 2015, was recently shared with me. Written by high school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano, it offers specific benefits for teachers who remove their desk from the classroom. The idea of “ditching” the teacher desk, which Provenzano proposes will improve the learning environment of the classroom, is further supported by the evidence that sitting is associated with increased health risks. So if your classroom needs a makeover, consider ditching your desk!
Link to “Ditching the Desk”
For information on students using standing desks, see our “In the News” page and the video from October 2015.