Education Update 7/29/15

Image source: wsilver/Flickr

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play

Tim Walker, an American teacher who moved to Helsinki, thought the Finnish method of taking 15 minute breaks after every 45 minutes of instruction was a bit excessive. Accustomed to teaching for longer stretches of time in theUS, he decided to modify the schedule for his fifth grade class of Finnish students.  When he extended the instructional session and took away a few breaks, Tim noticed negative effects in students from that change. Reflecting on the American approach, Tim realized continuous instruction without an interruption never worked. Taking short breaks for free time or play does positively affect attention and focus in the classroom. Anthony Pellegrini, author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development, observed similar results in schools in Asia where most students receive a 10-minute break after 40 minutes of classroom instruction. What’s important is not where the break happens, it’s the amount of freedom and free-play students have that makes a difference.

Image source: Flickinger, Brad/Flickr; 07/27/15

What Kids Need for Optimal Health and School Engagement

In the book, “Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids” by Denise Pope, Maureen Brown & Sarah Miles, the authors stress the importance of all stakeholders to understand a student’s needs in order to obtain optimal heath and school engagement. At Challenge Success, researchers developed a way to highlight these needs called PDF and denotes Play, Downtime, and Family Time – three main categories for well-being.  Why should these needs be understood?  Playtime focuses on activities that build lifelong skills such as problem-solving. Downtime means spending time doing non-structured play or academics and instead using the time to read, reflect or sleep. Finally, Family time, including activities such as game night or regular family meals, provides kids with positive mental health development.

Image source:; 03/26/15

Area School Districts on Track to Start School Later for Teens

Many school districts in Bellevue, Mercer Island, Northshore and Seattle are considering a later start time (no earlier than 8:30a.m.) for high school students. The later start time reflects the growing evidence illustrating chronic sleep loss negatively impacts the school performance, health and safety of students. Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the same later start time for middle and high school students, there has been little objection to the change. To ensure the move will succeed, school districts formed a committee to show the new start time, would be beneficial. Anew national survey shows parents support the idea as further studies repeatedly confirm the benefits of a later start time. Perhaps, high school students could use more “Downtime”. Who wouldn’t want more sleep?

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

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