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December 2009/January 2010
| Volume 67 | Number 4
Table of Contents
Amy M. Azzam
In this interview, David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, explains why so many people overeat. Changing lifestyles promote the constant availability of food and around-the-clock eating. In today's highly processed foods, food companies are able to dial in the exact amount of fat, sugar, and salt that will make people come back for more. We're no longer eating for nutrition or fuel—we're eating for reward. Schools can help rectify this situation by teaching students about good nutrition so they will want to eat foods that will sustain, satisfy, and nourish them.
As director of food and nutrition services for Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland, Anthony Geraci has led the district's efforts to revamp its food service program and teach students about nutrition, fresh food, and healthy eating habits. Geraci describes the need for such initiatives—for example, between 1990 and 2005, the number of diabetes cases in the United States doubled, at least in part because of the growth of processed and prepackaged foods in schools. Inner-city children, even more than others, lack access to healthy, fresh food. Programs implemented in Baltimore include changing the way the district purchases, prepares, and delivers food; making school breakfasts more attractive and nutritious; offering students "No Thank You Bites" to encourage them to sample new foods; and starting a 33-acre organic farm that grows local food for city schools and provides experiential learning experiences for students.
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Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley
A new report from the ETS Policy Information Center, titled Parsing the Achievement Gap II, updates its 2003 report on the same topic and tackles the following question: Have the gaps in students' experiences and life conditions that mirror the achievement gap narrowed, widened, or stayed the same in the intervening five or six years? The report identified 16 such gaps clustered in three different categories: school factors, factors related to the home and school connection, and factors that are present both before and beyond school. The authors find that although some gaps have narrowed and some have widened, more often there was little or no change. To achieve equality in access to high-quality schools, we may be required to focus on "beyond school" conditions to compensate for the deficits that many students experience in life outside the classroom.
Disappearing open space, parental fears, and competition from computers and video games are some of the recent factors that have led to children's disconnection from the natural world. This growing gap between human beings and nature, which the author describes as nature-deficit disorder, has several implications for health and well-being. The decline in outdoor activity has been associated with a rise in hyperactivity, obesity, myopia, and Vitamin D deficiency. Educators, parents, and community members can bring nature back into students' lives through their involvement in variety of networks, clubs, and education organizations. This broad movement to connect children to nature could send calmer, more curious, better-balanced children into the classroom.
Joyce V. Fetro, Connie Givens and Kellie Carroll
Coordinated school health is not another new program to add to schools' already overflowing plates; it's a framework around which to organize and manage new and existing health-related programs in schools and the surrounding community. The framework consists of eight components that have historically functioned independently: health education; physical education; school health services; counseling, psychological, and social services; nutrition services; staff wellness; a healthy school environment; and family/community involvement. Tennessee has implemented coordinated school health statewide. The CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health selected Gibson County Special School District in western Tennessee as one of six districts across the United States that has an outstanding coordinated school health program.
In the last few decades the percentage of U.S. children who are overweight or obese has doubled among preschoolers and adolescents and tripled among 1- to 11-year olds, according to this article. The author, a former U.S. Surgeon General, describes the growing body of research on the poor nutrition and fitness of U.S. children and the harmful effects of these trends on learning. Discussing the progress of school wellness programs, he profiles several innovative models that are making a positive difference in schools across the United States.
Christi A. Bergin and David A. Bergin
Research has shown that students who do not get enough sleep are more likely to misbehave in school and have lower academic achievement than their peers with healthy sleeping habits. In this article, Christi A. Bergin and David A. Bergin share research into students' sleep habits and conclude that helping students get adequate sleep has potential to raise academic achievement. They encourage teachers to talk with parents when students show signs of sleep deprivation. They also recommend that school eliminate late-night activities, ensure that homework does not require students to stay up late, and consider changing their start time.
Matthew D. Selekman
Approximately 14 to 17 percent of adolescents today self-harm, deliberately cutting, burning, or bruising themselves. Most self-harming adolescents use the behavior as a coping strategy to get immediate relief from emotional distress or other stressors in their lives. Stressors include fitting in with peers, activity and homework overload, fears about the future, and emotional disconnection in families. Schools can provide two major high school interventions that can help reduce the likelihood that self-harming epidemics will occur: (1) Schools can initiate on-site education programs that provide guidance and support for self-harming students; and (2) they can educate responding adults about self-harming so they understand the common causes, signs, and symptoms of the behavior, know how to differentiate self-harming behavior from suicidal behavior, are aware of effective treatments, and know how to respond in constructive and empowering ways.
Jerusha Conner, Denise Pope and Mollie Galloway
Students with high grade point averages might look like they're learning, but the stress of maintaining a high academic performance level may be causing them mental and physical distress that actually interferes with learning. Conner, Pope, and Galloway surveyed high-performing students at seven California high schools and found that most students were suffering from stress. Students complained of having so much homework that they had to stay up late to complete it, and some reported that they cheated or sought relief in self-destructive behavior. The authors suggest that schools rethink their scheduling and homework practices to ensure that students can maintain a healthier balance.
Stewart G. Trost and Hans van der Mars
U.S. schools are sacrificing physical education (P.E.) in the name of providing instructional hours for academics. In 2006, only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools, and 2.1 percent of high schools offered students daily physical education for the whole school year. Yet much research contradicts the conventional idea that eliminating physical education will improve academic performance. Trost and Van der Mars review the results of studies that show that when schools increase or reduce the hours devoted to school-based physical education, student achievement levels remain unchanged. They also review evidence that shows a positive correlation between students' levels of physical fitness and their academic achievement and evidence indicating that regular breaks for physical activity improve cognitive functioning. The authors see three implications from these findings: (1) We can no longer justify cutting P.E. on the grounds of strengthening academics; (2) Those in the education field should stop arguing over whether P.E. is essential; and (3) Administrators must aggressively protect physical education in the curriculum.
O'Grady teaches in a South Bronx community in which diabetes is a serious problem. To help her high school students learn more about diabetes and make connections between the rate of diabetes in their neighborhood and larger realities and social policies—such as the high number of fast food places in their area—O'Grady set up a Socratic seminar. The seminar focused on "Marvin Sweettooth," a fictional 13-year-old with diabetes. Students read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and books and articles on diabetes, the fast food industry, school lunch programs, and so on. Pretending to be one of eight characters touching Marvin's life—Marvin's mother, advertising executive "Ms. Sellafry", gym teacher "Mr. Cardio," and so on—students debated who is to blame for Marvin's illness. They brainstormed what each could do to reduce diabetes in the community. O'Grady found students rose to the challenge, synthesizing research, analyzing issues thoughtfully, and engaging in reasoned discussions of this health issue.
The author, a wellness teacher at Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, Massachusetts, describes how the school incorporates health risk-taking into its wellness (physical education) classes. She reviews research suggesting that adolescents have a natural, developmental need to take risks as part of forging their own identities and bonding with their peers. Warner states that "as physical educators, we can cultivate an atmosphere in which students push themselves to new limits, both physically and emotionally, while feeling supported by their classmates and teachers."
Wendy W. Murawski, Jennifer Lockwood, Abbie Khalili and Adrienne Johnston
Twenty percent of the students in CHIME Charter Middle School (CCMS) in Chatsworth, California have identified cognitive, physical, social, or behavioral disabilities. Because of its charter to be an inclusive, diverse community, CCMS places special emphasis on building a positive school culture where all students feel safe and included. In this article, school staff members describe the wide array of environmental, instructional, and interpersonal strategies they have implemented to reach this goal. Strategies include participating in No Name-Calling Week; implementing Second Step, a schoolwide violence prevention program; and providing online staff training on such topics as bullying, sexual harassment, child abuse, and playground supervision.
Kinoshita Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano, California, serves a student population that is 90 percent English language learners and 92 percent low-income. This article describes a range of strategies that the school staff developed to give students better access to health care and to meet other basic needs. For example, the school hired a bilingual community liaison who spearheaded a campaign to identify families who lacked health insurance and to connect them with state agencies that provide such insurance at little or no cost; as a result of this campaign, 98 percent of Kinoshita students now have access to health care. The author, an assistant principal at Kinoshita, explains the school's commitment to be an agent of change for its students and their families.
Students at this K-6 public school were routinely unruly and disruptive in their classes in the early morning and after lunchtime. Administrators identified on-site conditions contributing to these symptoms: bored students congregating in an overcrowded playground before school, and students discarding the majority of their lunches to maximize their time on the playground during the lunch period. This principal and her staff implemented two cost-free strategies that have improved discipline as well as student health; the school provides up tempo music that has inspired a walking program around the school grounds, preventing playground overcrowding and boredom in the mornings. They also changed the lunchtime schedule, sending students out to play before bringing them inside for a sit-down lunch of a prescribed duration. These two changes have greatly improved student socialization, energy, and attention-levels, as well as reduced altercations and discipline problems at the school.
Four years ago, educators in rural Batesville, Indiana, discovered that alcohol abuse among teens was a serious problem in their community. Assistant superintendent Jim Roberts initiated Choices, a districtwide program to reduce teen drinking that involves parents and community partners. Roberts describes the program's three key components; a parent pledge to make alcohol inaccessible to teens in the home, parent and student education events, and frequent supervised social gatherings for teens. Surveys indicate a significant drop in teen drinking in Batesville since the program began.
Robert J. Marzano
Jane L. David
Thomas R. Hoerr
William M. Ferriter
Judith Gaston Fisher
After Fisher, a resource teacher in a private school, observed her students' overscheduled and pressured lives, she concluded that stress was taking a toll on their ability to focus on learning activities. She began leading students in weekly mindfulness meditation sessions every Monday morning. Fisher describes how she helps students get into a state of relaxed alertness, guiding them to relax their bodies, focus on breathing rhythmically, and concentrate on a sound or phrase to maintain focus on the present moment. Guided visualizations and student-chosen affirmations (such as "I am a calm person") increased students' positive thoughts and emotions and eventually led to more successful behaviors.
A former neurologist and a middle school math teacher explains how she teaches her students basics about the brain and an approach to learning that helps their brains operate to maximum effectiveness. Willis describes the brain's filters—the reticular activating system, the limbic system, and dopamine—that determine which information reaches the prefrontal cortex (or "thinking brain") and which gets routed to the reactive part of the brain. Because only the prefrontal cortex can consciously process information, it's essential that students learn to calm their emotions and focus their attention so that the information they seek to remember makes it to this key processing center. Willis describes how she leads students in meditation, coaches them in emotional maintenance, and has them monitor their own study habits and record which methods, places, and schedules lead to better learning. The article includes a handout written in kid-friendly language explaining brain function; readers can download this PDF to use as a handout for teaching about the brain.
Pete Hall and Leanne Liddicoat
Students who are struggling with academic work may not be struggling with the work itself, but with seeing the work. Without comprehensive screenings, vision problems often go unnoticed and lead to children being incorrectly identified as learning disabled. In this article teacher Pete Hall and developmental optometrist Leanne Liddicoat describe several common vision problems that might hinder student learning, and they advocate more in-depth screenings for vision problems.
Jacqueline Zeller, Suzanne Costello and Christina E. Nikitopoulos
The authors describe the work of Children's Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships, a community outreach program of Children's Hospital Boston that fosters partnerships between Boston-area schools, students' families, and community health agencies and professionals. Children's Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships emphasizes schoolwide preventive health care and strengthening families' health awareness and their connections to local healthcare resources. To illustrate this program's approach, the authors recount a health awareness campaign that one Boston-area elementary school plagued with sleep-deprived learners undertook with CHNP's leadership. Students and families became more aware of the need for adequate sleep and the "sleep stealing" factors in their homes that they could change to improve children's health.
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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