DC School HUB
DCschoolHUB is the ultimate resource in your search for the best Washington, DC area daycares, preschools, private schools and independent schools. What you’ll find here:
- Every known daycare, preschool, and private school in the Washington, DC, area aka the DMV,
- Chatrooms to talk with experts, school officials, daycare professionals and other parents,
- Forums to ask and answer questions,
- A section to find Who’s Got Spots in their daycare or school currently and in the near future,
- Blog posts from area educational leaders,
- A calendar with events to visit and learn about daycares and schools,
- And much, much more!
Can Recess Actually Help Academic Success?
In the United States, the current education trend seems to be more homework, longer school days, less recess. Sadly, this “approach” to improving academic achievement has actually had the opposite effect. Among 57 countries assessed in 2009, the United States performed 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading. Finland, a country that requires 15 minutes of outside break time after every 45 minutes of instruction, performed 6th in math, 2nd in science, and 3rd in reading. They are currently rated at the top overall.
According to an August 2014 article in the National Desert News (“Why Has U.S. Academic Success Dropped?”), “Finns are dead serious about recess. Not only are the breaks required, but kids are required to go outside in all kinds of weather.” Further, school days are only 5 hours long, and students are not given homework. The average Finnish first-grader only goes to school for 3 hours per day. So why are the Fins so far ahead academically?
“‘Children may learn more efficiently following changes in ‘arousal levels,’ said John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. ‘Arousal level’ is the psychiatric term for a state of alertness involving higher heart rate and blood pressure, a state of readiness to handle new events and process information.” There has been extensive research demonstrating the improvement seen in classroom behavior following recess, including decreased hyperactivity and increased engagement. It is as if exercise prepares the brain to learn and retain new information more efficiently and more effectively.
If the United States hopes to catch up to other countries in terms of academic achievement, a drastic shift in its approach to education will have to first take place. READ MORE BLOGS
by Neal M. Brown, Head of School, Green Acres School
At the risk of belaboring the point, I want, once again, to draw attention to the misguided, counterproductive, and harmful level of pressure that many schools and parents are placing on our children and teenagers. Some level of stress is necessary for most types of true achievement, but too much, coupled with too little sleep and too much fear of failure, inhibits learning and literally makes our children unhealthy. We need to set high standards for them—or better, help them to set high standards for themselves—but more homework, more rote learning, more impersonal classroom environments, less tolerance for mistakes, and increasingly narrow definitions of success are not making our students and children any smarter, healthier, or more successful.
Vicki Abeles (Race to Nowhere) captures the errors of our ways as educators in her recent New York Timespiece, “Is the Drive for Success Making our Children Sick?” And Valerie Strauss, in the recent Washington Postarticle, “The Message our Children Need to Hear but Almost Never Do” similarly describes the pitfalls of too much parental pressure. A Times article by Kyle Spencer worth reading highlights the challenges school districts face when they seek to address these pressures.
All of these writers argue that high levels of stress undermine learning, and that setting high standards for students does not have to come at the expense of balance, health, learning, or success. Abeles calls upon parents, educators, and students to make “small but important changes: instituting everyday homework limits [ . . . ], adding advisory periods for student support, and providing students opportunities to show their growth in creative ways beyond conventional tests.” Strauss calls for “a world that doesn’t just grind up our children.” Instead of focusing our energy on worrying about children making the “‘wrong moves,’” she argues, we should focus on what they’re doing right. Referencing such an example set by a New Jersey school district near Princeton, Spencer advocates a “holistic, ‘whole-child’ approach [ . . . ] that respects ‘social-emotional development’ and ‘deep and meaningful learning’ over academics alone.”
At least some schools and districts are trying—and some parents also are listening. I’d like to believe that in the four years since I wrote Elementary School Leadership in an Age of Anxiety for Independent School Magazine, we’ve become as a society better attuned to the harmful pressures our children experience. As this issue continues to receive national attention in the media, my hope is that schools and educators will be reminded to make a greater effort to ignite a spark for learning, to celebrate effort and even failure, to focus on homework’s quality rather than its quantity, and to engage in more forthright discussions among teachers, students, and parents about what really constitutes success. Let’s instill in children what they most need for a life of accomplishment and joy.
READ MORE BLOGS
By Dr. Lenka Glassman, Georgetown Psychology Associates
We know that good nutrition keeps our bodies strong and healthy, and now, increasingly, research is showing that improving one’s diet with brain-healthy nutrients can also support our mental and neurological health.
A large study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine (2011) found that our modern Western diet, which is high in processed, high-calorie and low-nutrient foods, is linked to increased depression and anxiety, while a more recent review of studies in the American Journal of Public Health (2014) demonstrated a relationship between unhealthy dietary patterns and poor mental health in children and adolescents.
Researchers have also begun to uncover a brain-gut connection, finding that gut bacteria imbalances are associated with anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia.
Research is still limited, but physicians and psychologists are taking note. In an article recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry, an international group of scientists argued that diet is “as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.”
Can dietary changes really replace my therapist? Not likely. The causes of mental health problems are complex, and can include biological, emotional, environmental, and dietary factors. Most experts say that there is no substitution for traditional mental health treatment (psychotherapy and pharmaceutical interventions), but acknowledge that including diet and exercise in the treatment equation could be the next step in helping people feel their best.
So what should we be eating?
A number of studies have demonstrated the important role of omega-3s, Vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and magnesium in brain health. Specifically, there appears to be a link between depression and low levels of certain B vitamins, as well as between low levels of maternal Vitamin D and a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia.