Let’s Inspire Innovation ‘N Kids
Do something different rather than more rigor of the same – this approach is working in other countries & some of these ideas have been adopted in charter schools in the U.S.
Students in the United States have achieved progressively lower scores in reading, math, and science for the past 20 years, and the country presently muddles along in the middle of the pack on national and global assessments1, even though legislators continue to throw more money at schools and teachers are required to teach more and more to specific test standards.2
As a result of this mindset, participation in physical education has declined across U.S. schools, due to the belief that if students are in class for more hours, teacher competencies are measured competitively, and teachers teach to a test, students will ultimately become better learners/scholars.3 There is strong research that shows that children who engage in more physical activity and play and less academic content daily will do better academically than children who are sedentary, less creative and active, and pressured with more academic content daily.4, 5
Liink Project is based on research in the U.S. and other countries to incorporate a much more inclusive model than traditional public schools have adopted over the past 20 years. Three public school districts in the DFW area will participate in this project. Liink Project consists of four steps (see below): Training will take place beginning Fall, 2013; pilot will begin Fall, 2014.
- Increase the amount of physical activity/recess in the schools
- Create equality across content areas; add ethics/character development as a content area
- Assess students differently (assess with developmental tracking instead of grades twice a semester); less standardized testing – more local control
- Restructure the school day (less hours in classroom for K-6 students; extra time in play/creativity)
The plan for initiating Liink Project in pilot schools is the following:
- Identify the elementary schools involved per school district in the project (no more than three elementary schools per district).
- Begin the pilot with grades K and 1 the first year, adding a grade per year with the intent of having grades K-9 completing Liink Project by the end of nine years.
- Train the administrators and teachers for each of the pilot schools to implement the different steps of the model.
- Identify after-school programs and volunteers who will create a play/creative environment for children when school dismisses each day for those students who cannot go home earlier than the traditional times.
The needs are vast to transform an educational system. Some of the needs that will be targeted are:
- Achieve higher math, science, and reading scores as a result of this model.
- Minimize discipline problems through teaching ethical responsibility and more recess breaks in the day.
- Keep students on task for each classroom content period (45 minutes) because they will have a 15-minute recess added as part of each hour in the school day.
- More learning per content area with less time on task per content area (quality over quantity).
- Student burnout should decrease as a result of more play/creative time as a young child with no more than 6 content classes per day by the time they complete 9th grade.
- Choice of foods will be limited – healthier foods offered, more equity of offerings
This plan has the potential to strengthen the public school system through better health (less obesity, less type II diabetes, increased energy), higher expectations of social responsibility (emphasizing ethical behaviors); more time to be playful and creative in order to learn more effectively when in the classroom; fewer standardized tests, which will develop more student confidence and self-esteem to learn, because a student will no longer be labeled by a score; and less time in a classroom setting (although no less rigor of content), which will create more passion in students to learn and less burnout as a result of too much time in school.
The findings from this pilot program would have important and immediate public health policy relevance. Based on our reporting, I truly believe that we can address some very important public health and learning issues: obesity, nutrition, health insurance, diseases (cancer, diabetes, inflammation disorders), and content development.