Adolescents Need to Move!

Schools risk losing the interest of broad swathes of their students when they ask younger adolescents to stay quietly inside all day. Some students can handle a full day of table-chair activity but many are overwhelmed by restlessness and become alienated when most of what they do from morning until mid-afternoon is sedentary in nature.

Here is an idea from a teacher in Michigan that would get students moving (and simultaneously help address our obesity problem), teach them a useful skill, and connect in meaningful ways to the science curriculum. Think what it would be like if more academic learning was linked to active projects that appealed to students. Instead of having to drag many adolescents through their middle and high school years kicking and screaming, school – and learning – could become something students actually wanted to do.

Overcoming ambivalence on the part of students – let alone resistance – currently occupies a good part of the day of most teachers. Learning time is seriously compromised when we have to spend time squelching the natural physical energy of adolescence. It makes more sense – and would yield richer academic rewards – to capitalize on their impressive energy.

Many teachers around the country believe in project-based learning and are poised to transform their classrooms into lively centers of active learning. The trouble is that our national obsession with standardization and standardized testing has forced these teachers to turn from their ideals and teach to the test. Irony of ironies, what we then get are many turned-off students.

School needs to be livelier if it is to guide students successfully through the difficult adolescent years. If schools remain sedentary in nature and test-driven we will lose many students before they reach college age.

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Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.