The Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times' Well blog has an article about how children learn better if they have time for play. It covered a number of studies about the effects of gym and recess on learning including this one:
published this month in the journal Pediatrics studied the links
between recess and classroom behavior among about 11,000 children age 8
and 9. Those who had more than 15 minutes of recess a day showed better
behavior in class than those who had little or none. Although
disadvantaged children were more likely to be denied recess, the
association between better behavior and recess time held up even after
researchers controlled for a number of variables, including sex,
ethnicity, public or private school and class size.
At my son's school, at least one teacher uses denial of recess as a tool for disciplining the children in class. On that strategy, the article notes:
That strikes Dr. Barros as illogical. “Recess should be part of the
curriculum,” she said. “You don’t punish a kid by having them miss math
class, so kids shouldn’t be punished by not getting recess.”
Participating in gym also helps:
Health that the more physical fitness tests children passed, the better
they did on academic tests. The study, of 1,800 middle school students,
suggests that children can benefit academically from physical activity during gym class and recess.
Apparently just walking or being in a natural setting helps as well:
A small study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
last year found that walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests
of attention and concentration. Notably, children who took walks in
natural settings did better than those who walked in urban areas,
according to the report, published online in August in The Journal of
Attention Disorders. The researchers found that a dose of nature worked
as well as a dose of medication to improve concentration, or even
Andrea Faber Taylor, a child environment and behavior researcher at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois,
says other research suggests that all children, not just those with
attention problems, can benefit from spending time in nature during the
school day. In another study of children who live in public housing,
girls who had access to green courtyards scored better on concentration
tests than those who did not.
So here is where I get to share a teachable moment.
The Green Party takes a holistic approach to, well, everything. We tend to favor non-linear approaches in the policies we prescribe. Rather than view learning in a linear way, i.e. knowledge=hours of study, we recognize that life has diminishing returns. The more time or money that you put into something, say studying or consuming, the less you get out of it, i.e. knowledge or happiness. However, as the article shows, devoting more hours to play and fewer to studying helps children learn better.
As with knowledge, decreasing production and consumption for many of us, say by allowing people to work fewer hours, probably will increase their happiness. By devoting more time with family, friends, neighbors and health, and less with their TVs, cars and computers, people will be richer and live longer.
By having people with "higher skill jobs" do less, we create opportunities for those with "fewer skills" to learn and share in the work. We can eliminate or automate the drudgery jobs and design work that uses all of our faculties. We all end up better off if we distribute the work better, have less of it to begin with and make sure everyone benefits from the bounty this blue/green jewel of a planet is willing and able to share with us.