Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools
Sarah Wenzel and her class at Forest Home Elementary demonstrate a series of poses from the YogaKids cards, http://www.yogakids.com.

When I was in kindergarten, someone would come to play the piano and we children would walk in a circle pretending to be giraffes (re-e-eaching!) and elephants (swinging gently while bent over).

Just the other day, I realized that those kindergarten stretches were the same as stretches I’ve been doing for my back.

Decades ago, schools like mine were helping kids exercise for health. Now an increasing number of studies suggest that moving while in class helps children’s brains learn better, too.

Donna de la Cruz writes at the NY Times, “Sit still. It’s the mantra of every classroom. But that is changing as evidence builds that taking brief activity breaks during the day helps children learn and be more attentive in class, and a growing number of programs designed to promote movement are being adopted in schools. …

“A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that children who are more active ‘show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.’ And a study released in January by Lund University in Sweden shows that students, especially boys, who had daily physical education, did better in school.

“ ‘Daily physical activity is an opportunity for the average school to become a high-performing school,’ said Jesper Fritz, a doctoral student at Lund University and physician at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, who was the study’s lead author. …

“ ‘Kids aren’t meant to sit still all day and take in information,’ said Steve Boyle, one of the co-founders of the National Association of Physical Literacy, which aims to bring movement into schools. ‘Adults aren’t wired that way either.’

“Mr. Boyle’s association has introduced a series of three- to five-minute videos called ‘BrainErgizers‘ that are being used in schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in 15 states and in Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Australia, he said. A version of the program is available to schools at no charge. …

“ ‘At the end of the week, kids have gotten an hour or more worth of movement, and it’s all done in the classroom with no special equipment,’ Mr. Boyle said. ‘We’re not looking to replace gym classes, we’re aiming to give kids more minutes of movement per week. And by introducing sports into the videos, giving kids a chance to try sports they may not have ever tried before.’ ”

To read more at the NY Times, click here.

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My high school friend Susie posted this KQED article on Facebook. I couldn’t agree more with its focus on the value of daydreams and allowing everyone adequate  time to recharge batteries.

Referencing today’s many distractions, KQED reporter Katrina Schwartz writes, “Many people believe they are skilled multitaskers, but they’re wrong. Neuroscience has shown that multitasking — the process of doing more than one thing at the same time — doesn’t exist.

“ ‘The brain doesn’t multitask,’ said Daniel Levitin, author and professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University on KQED’s Forum program. ‘It engages in sequential tasking or unitasking, where we are shifting rapidly from one thing to another without realizing it.’ The brain is actually fracturing time into ever smaller parts and focusing on each thing individually. …

“The brain has a natural way of giving itself a break — it’s called daydreaming. ‘It allows you to refresh and release all those neural circuits that get all bound up when you’re focused,’ Levitin said. …

“[Daydreaming] is particularly important for students, who are often asked to sit through a long school day with very few breaks. Lots of research has shown the importance of recess and free play time for academic success, but schools still tend to emphasize time spent in class ‘learning’ over a more nuanced view of how and why kids learn.

“ ‘Children shouldn’t be overly scheduled,’ Levitin said. ‘They should have blocks of time to promote spontaneity and creativity.’ Without that time, kids don’t have the mental space to let new ideas and ways of doing things arise. Daydreaming and playing are crucial to develop the kind of creativity many say should be a focal point of a modern education system.” More.

Time to think, time to free associate, is not just important for kids. If the electric handwarmers I use in winter take twice as long to recharge as to expend their stored heat, then I, too, should have double time to recharge after engaging on anything. You, too.

Photo: Brynja Eldon/Flickr

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Dorcas International of Rhode Island is a refugee-resettlement and immigrant-support organization that also offers education programs and services to native-born residents.

On the nonprofit’s website, you can find uplifting stories of DIIRI beneficiaries. Here is one.

Sidy Maiga, a master percussionist from Mali, wanted to take his skills to the next level. The first step was to get over his insecurity about education.

“His mastery of the djembe, a drum of West African origin that is rope-tuned [and] shaped like a large goblet, has taken him on tours all over the world and as a teacher in schools all over the East Coast … But without a high school diploma, he felt like he had hit a wall. …

“Sidy heard from friends about things you could do at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island. …

“He admits he was hesitant about going to school again. … He enrolled in an ESL [English as a Second language] class to get up to speed” before taking the high school equivalency test known as the GED “and felt himself getting discouraged — so he stopped going to class.

“However, after getting encouraging calls from DIIRI staff, Sidy decided he would give it another shot. … ‘I think they saved my life, and I’m glad I came back.’ …

“With the help and encouragement of DIIRI staaff, Sidy decided the next step would be college.”

Sidy starts at Berklee College of Music this year and says, “Once I learn the academic way of music, then I can teach African music to the world.”

More here.

Photo: Dorcas International Institute
Malian djembe drummer Sidy Maiga says Dorcas staff “saved my life.”

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I liked this local story about a new approach to helping students who have special needs master independent-living skills while still connected with high school. It’s not hard to imagine the satisfaction students will gain from this volunteer-powered opportunity.

Brittany Ballantyne writes at the Valley Breeze, “Thanks to $15,000 donated from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and the help of volunteers, students in the transition program at North Providence High School [NPHS] will start the school year in a new state-of-the-art transitional apartment space.

“Christopher Jones, special education director, said six Lowe’s stores donated $2,500 each to help build a studio apartment in the building at 1828 Mineral Spring Ave., where students will learn how to prepare and cook food, do laundry, type up resumes, make a bed and become [nursing assistant] certified if they choose.

“By the start of the academic year, Jones said, students ages 18 to 21 in the program will be able to get to work in the space …

“Jones envisioned giving the students an experience where they moved up not just in academics, but also in the NPHS building after receiving their diplomas. What were two in-school suspension classrooms [have been] transformed into the apartment after space was reconfigured in the high school, Jones explained. …

“He said the apartment space will be used anytime students aren’t out in the community getting hands-on work experience.”

More at the Valley Breeze, here.

Photo: The Valley Breeze
Students in the transition program at North Providence High School get apartment-style space to practice how to prepare food and cook, do laundry, make beds and write resumes.

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The article by Astrid Zweynert and Ros Russell begins, “Boys campaigning for girls’ education is not common in most parts of the world, but in India’s Rajasthan state, they are at the heart of a drive to get more girls into schools.

Educate Girls trains young people to go into villages to find girls who are not in the classroom in a country where more than 3 million girls are out of school.

“Some 60 percent of Educate Girls’ 4,500 volunteers are boys, founder and executive director Safeena Husain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

” ‘Having these boys as champions for the girls is absolutely at the core of what we’re trying to achieve,’ Husain said in an interview as she was awarded the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the largest prize of its kind. …

“In Rajasthan, 40 percent of girls leave school before reaching fifth grade, often because their parents do not see education as necessary for their daughter because she is going to get married or stay at home to do housework, Husain said. …

“Educate Girls’ approach to is to define hotspots where many girls are out of school, often in remote rural or tribal areas, and then deploy its volunteers to bring them back into the classroom, said Husain.”

There’s plenty of research showing that when girls are educated, the standard of living in a country goes up. Educated girls “are less likely to get married at an early age or to die in childbirth, they are likely to have healthier children and more likely to find work and earn more money.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Are you familiar with the “Lens” blog at the NY Times? It focuses on “photography, video and visual journalism.” Here David Gonzalez writes about the photos of Putu Sayoga.

[Hat tip: Asakiyume on twitter.]

“If you live in a far-off place, a library may be something you’d only read about in books. That is, if you had books to begin with.

“That became the mission of Ridwan Sururi, an Indonesian man with a plan — and a horse. Several days a week, he loads books onto makeshift shelves he drapes over his steed, taking them to eager schoolchildren in the remote village of Serang, in central Java. ..

“Mr. Sayoga, a co-founder of the collective Arka Project, had seen something about the equine library on a friend’s Facebook page. It reminded him of his own childhood, where his school had only out-of-date books. Intrigued, he reached out to Mr. Sururi, who offered to put Mr. Sayoga up in his home while he spent time photographing Mr. Sururi on his rounds. …

“Mr. Sururi made a living caring for horses, as well as giving scenic tours on horseback. One of his clients, Nirwan Arsuka, came up with the book idea as a way of doing something to benefit the community, specifically a mobile library. He gave Mr. Sururi 138 books for starters. Most were in Indonesian, and the books included a lot with drawings.

“Children at the schools he visits can borrow the books for three days, and demand has been so great that he now has thousands of books.” More here. Check out the slide show.

Photo: Putu Sayoga

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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