Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ideal Schools & Ingenuity

    As we know, the US obesity level for children is very high. Children are sitting for six hours or more each day at a desk. What can be done to encourage more activity and creativity at school?

1. Create larger classrooms when building new schools.

If the classrooms are large to begin with, more centers can be made and more ideas can be carried out. I have seen brand new primary schools costing taxpayers two to four million dollars with very small, cramped quarters for a class of 15 or more children. Students and teachers could barely move around, and the room ambiance was akin to sardines in a can.

2. Classroom Furniture

Unfortunately, classroom furniture has stayed the same throughout history with desks, chairs and a podium for the teacher. Back in the day when children had to walk to school five or ten miles, seating might have been a very welcoming beginning to studies. Now, however, children are waiting to board busses with virtually no walking. Some ideas to increase activity might be an assortment of balance ball chairs, adjustable standup desks, couches, activity centers, and bean bag chairs. I have seen one teacher have her husband build risers for a small corner of her class, where students could stand up or sit down. Well, I hear Google has slides in the workplace. Hint.

3. Daily OPT

My brother, formerly in the army, told me about OPT, or Overall Physical Training. After I'd been sitting creating graduate papers for days on end, it was easy, at least for me, to pile on the poundage. He suggested daily OPT, which is walking. Now I walk.

What I noticed about being a walker is that the same daily scene can get very monotonous. Headphones with music can help. But, what might even be better is a pathway that changes with the seasons.

4. Pathways

This may sound like a wild idea to some. But, believe it or not, plans for gorgeous outdoor/indoor school environments have been out there for years, and are very rarely used. They can even be changed, much like a set design. When I think of nice walking areas, I think about botanical gardens. I think of trails that diverge in varying directions, not knowing what is beyond, and secrets. The flora all changes with the seasons. What a great place to be walking and seeing growth and changes in nature. A great thing for kids to be experiencing. 

I've studied outdoor/indoor school environments. The same experience could be replicated in an indoor conservatory. Children could be experiencing changes in a more temperate and safe environment in the city or cold climates. Although infrequently used in schools, the designs for these surroundings can fluctuate and are absolutely s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g.

5. Play Area Expansions

"We have a play area."

Okay, there is a slide, a swing set and some monkey bars set in a fenced in area with mostly dirt, some unkempt grass and cement. I've always thought that not enough reasoning is given to the play area. Slides and swings are just deposited in any area, without regard to the question, "Why are they there?". Some children are bored and sit on the pavement. Design plans might be drawn up to make the most out of the playground, giving thought to flora, different activities and what children like to do.

6. A Child's Work

 "Play is the work of children (Piaget)." Children who have imaginations might bring new inventions never thought about into their adult life's work. In one study, children were asked what they'd wanted in a playground. Surprisingly, they liked natural materials, such as wood, as opposed to plastics.

How about asking the children what they'd like on the playground? Children's voices should be heard. The playground should be a much more inviting area that looks pleasing to all, and has a great deal more to do, and discover. 

7. All About Money

Wow, this sounds all too expensive. Yet, schools are given millions of dollars by the state and federal governments. In other words, you, the taxpayer. Where does the money go? Much of it might go to textbooks and associated materials, such as workbooks. A good idea might be to look over your school district's fiscal budget. You might be surprised.

The math... 15 children in a classroom with say, $200 worth of workbook materials each, equals $3,000 per year per class. Let's say there are 25 classrooms in one school equaling $ 75, 000 per year. Multiple that by the amount of district wide schools, and there you have it, a huge sum.

, teachers have been trained, and many are qualified to create their own instructional materials. Many instructors hold graduate degrees and beyond.

8. Ingenuity

Much of the text book stuff  I've noticed that many teachers are directed to follow verbatim, doesn't do a great deal for students. If so, then US would not have a genuine problem with school report card failure, and so on. Remember, some of these textbook writers might rarely deal with children and if ever on a daily learning basis. 

Some teachers have complained about the age appropriateness of some text and activities, such as students memorizing difficult spelling lists of 20 words at the age of  7, and other problems, such as the lack of differentiating instruction for low and high levels of students. In my experience, far too many ways of approaching basic skills practice cloud children's thinking... making them insecure in their abilities to learn.

Memorizing is an important skill. But, developing a child's imagination should be supported, as it is hard to encourage later, as an adult. Many teachers are required to follow district purchased materials word for word. But, allowing those teachers who are capable to make their own materials for classes might encourage ingenuity and eliminate monotony.

If skilled teachers were able to use their originality to create their own classroom materials, students might be encouraged to use their imaginations. More activity would naturally follow, as many children learn best when doing.

 The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. `Piaget

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