The conversation that is seldom addressed in schools is why do students too often find school so boring. Many students are uninterested in learning and find school a waste of time because they see little connection between what is happening in class and what is happening in their real life. Students’ perception of learning as meaningless is often a result of little personal involvement, the teacher-lectures-the-students-passively-listen format, and the loss of opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. If you ask yourself the question, “How many of our students fall into that category?” the answer should propel you to look more deeply into the situation and address it.
One specific circumstance that underlies the student’s perception of school being boring is the amount of seat time that kids experience during any given school day. During the last 10 years, the focus on high-stakes testing and raising student achievement has actually intensified this situation. Time spent sitting and doing academic work has increased at the expense of recess, PE, the arts, shop, home arts, or other hands-on learning.
As Arvind Gupta of the Children’s Science Center notes, “The greatest sin that we can commit against our children is to make them sit still, on a chair, for long hours. Most schools do just that. Children’s life is motion and activities, and most learning should be by doing. Today, the majority of schools fail to capture the imagination of children.“
One school system that has arranged the school day in ways that reduce the possibility of being bored is in Finland. Educational leader, Pasi Sahlberg describes deliberately reducing the amount of seat time that kids have each day. In the elementary school, 15 minutes of each hour is devoted to recess and physical activity. Cooperative learning is utilized as students work on hands-on problem-solving.
Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, advocates an additional important strategy: the power of play. Play sets the stage for cooperative socialization that improves peer relationships as well as individual attitudes toward school. He goes on to say,
“It nourishes the roots of trust, empathy, caring, and sharing. Games, physical activity, and interactive play between kids sets the foundation for our understanding for fairness and justice… Even a short walk can lift spirits.
One elementary school in particular built upon this idea of play and movement by instituting an interactive Exergaming center to facilitate these experiences. They built a daily schedule to insure that there were no long periods of seat time without physical activity. It resulted in raising the spirits of kids, making a part of their day fun through play and physical activity. In addition, as the research demonstrates, it actually improved their readiness to learn when they returned to class. As one student put it, “The Exergame Lab was the best thing that has happened to this school.”
Combining movement with play will definitely address the issue of boredom in schools. When we change the disposition of students toward school, we open the opportunities for them to engage at a higher level and to access what’s being offered that will impact each student for a lifetime.