Monday, October 28th, 2013
Two public schools in New York City have banned the wildly popular “Rainbow Loom” bracelets that, school officials say, are occupying students’ minds and attention well beyond the kids’ free time. More from Today.com:
The latest schoolyard craze causing a ruckus is the Rainbow Loom, which involves a crochet hook and multicolored rubber bands, and results in colorful bracelets that are the passion of elementary school girls and boys everywhere. Two New York City schools, however, feel the passion may be poisoning recess and classroom time.
In one Upper West side school, P.S. 87, anything related to Rainbow Looms is considered contraband, while in Brooklyn’s P.S. 107, students are still allowed to wear the bracelets, but they are no longer allowed to bring the “looms” and “related paraphernalia” to school.
Some parents are scratching their heads over the decision to ban what they see as a highly creative outlet for kids. In a world where arts education budgets can be strapped, prohibiting an artistic recess activity can seem counterintuitive.
The Rainbow Loom also defies stereotypical gender norms, as boys and girls are similarly obsessed with making, trading and giving the bracelets to their friends. In a story for Time magazine, Annie Murphy Paul expressed surprise when her 7-year old son, who normally plays football and baseball, asked for a kit and embraced “the distinctly feminine activity of making jewelry.” Murphy argues that the Rainbow Loom is more than a toy — it’s hope for gender equality.
“I think it’s a complete overreaction on the part of the administration,” says one P.S. 87 mom who asked to remain anonymous. Rainbow bracelets are an inexpensive and creative source of pride for the students who also use the trend to build community as they collaborate on pretty intricate designs, she says.
At the same time, other parents applaud the schools for taking action. They believe that the rainbow looms were disruptive to the classroom environment and created a divide between those who have the looms and those who do not.
Image: Rainbow loom bracelets, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Children who exercise regularly and who are in good physical condition are better able to absorb and retain information in school, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More from The New York Times:
[Researchers recruited] a group of local 9- and 10-year-old boys and girls, testing their aerobic fitness on a treadmill, and then asking 24 of the most fit and 24 of the least fit to come into the exercise physiology lab and work on some difficult memorization tasks.
Learning is, of course, a complex process, involving not only the taking in and storing of new information in the form of memories, a process known as encoding, but also recalling that information later. Information that cannot be recalled has not really been learned.
Earlier studies of children’s learning styles have shown that most learn more readily if they are tested on material while they are in the process of learning it. In effect, if they are quizzed while memorizing, they remember more easily. Straight memorization, without intermittent reinforcement during the process, is tougher, although it is also how most children study.
In this case, the researchers opted to use both approaches to learning, by providing their young volunteers with iPads onto which several maps of imaginary lands had been loaded. The maps were demarcated into regions, each with a four-letter name. During one learning session, the children were shown these names in place for six seconds. The names then appeared on the map in their correct position six additional times while children stared at and tried to memorize them.
In a separate learning session, region names appeared on a different map in their proper location, then moved to the margins of the map. The children were asked to tap on a name and match it with the correct region, providing in-session testing as they memorized.
A day later, all of the children returned to the lab and were asked to correctly label the various maps’ regions.
The results, published last week in PLoS One, show that, over all, the children performed similarly when they were asked to recall names for the map when their memorization was reinforced by testing.
But when the recall involved the more difficult type of learning — memorizing without intermittent testing — the children who were in better aerobic condition significantly outperformed the less-fit group, remembering about 40 percent of the regions’ names accurately, compared with barely 25 percent accuracy for the out-of-shape kids.
This finding suggests that “higher levels of fitness have their greatest impact in the most challenging situations” that children face intellectually, the study’s authors write. The more difficult something is to learn, the more physical fitness may aid children in learning it.
Image: Kids playing at recess, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 29th, 2013
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that schools are making some strides in helping kids make healthy choices. The report revealed a jump in the number of schools phasing out junk foods, and found more elementary schools offering gym classes. More from The Washington Post:
[A]fter years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips, the percentage of school districts that prohibited such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the CDC’s 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study. Also, slightly more than half of school districts – up from about 35 percent in 2000 — made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students.
“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in the news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”
Since 2000, the number of school districts that require elementary schools to teach physical education increased. In addition, the number of districts entering into agreements with local YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.
The CDC study is a periodic, national survey that examines key components of school health at the state, district, school, and classroom level, including health education; physical education and activity; health services; mental health and social services; nutrition services; healthy and safe school environment; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.
Image: Student in cafeteria, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
A recent essay on TIME magazine’s website argues that schools are becoming “hostile environments for young boys.” In the aftermath of school violence in places including Newtown, Connecticut, many schools have adopted zero tolerance policies related to firearms, but those rules are sometimes interpreted very strictly, with boys as young as seven being suspended for pretending to “shoot” bad guys with pencils, or for throwing imaginary hand grenades. As a result, writer Christina Hoff Sommers worries that schools are no longer letting boys engage in the action-oriented, good-guys-versus-bad-guys play that she says comes naturally to them.
Here’s more from her essay on TIME.com:
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Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud—too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”
According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression—only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week—whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.
Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school.
boys, Christina Hoff Sommers, gun violence, school, schools, social behavior, Time magazine, violence | Categories:
Education, Parenting News, Parents News Now, Trends
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
A growing number of elementary schools across the country are returning to “ability grouping,” a practice that groups students not by age, but by school level. The practice was popular in the 1980s and 90s, but fell out of favor amid discomfort from parents who feared the policy was unequal and placed poor and minority students at a disadvantage. More from The New York Times:
A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996.
“These practices were essentially stigmatized,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. “It’s kind of gone underground, it’s become less controversial.”
The resurgence of ability grouping comes as New York City grapples with the state of its gifted and talented programs — a form of tracking in some public schools in which certain students, selected through testing, take accelerated classes together.
These programs, which serve about 3 percent of the elementary school population, are dominated by white and Asian students.
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker who is running for mayor, has proposed expanding the number of gifted classes while broadening the criteria for admission in hopes of increasing diversity. (The city’s Education Department has opposed the proposal, saying that using criteria other than tests would dilute the classes.)
Teachers and principals who use grouping say that the practice has become indispensable, helping them cope with widely varying levels of ability and achievement.
Image: School children, via Shutterstock
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