In an article for the Washington Post, therapist Angela Hanscom goes to middle school and tries to sit still and focus. This is a follow-up to two popular posts about the problems kids face when they are forced to sit still in school for hours on end without a break or any kind of movement and play.
In Angela Hanscom's first article "Why so many kids can't sit still in school today" she discussed how being inactive affects students' ability to stay focused and learn, and in some cases leads to improper diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
Angela Hanscom writes:
Except for brief periods of getting up and switching classrooms, I've been sitting for the past 90 excruciating minutes. I look down at my leg and notice it is bouncing. Great, I think to myself, now I’m fidgeting! I’m doing anything I can to pay attention – even contorting my body into awkward positions to keep from daydreaming. It is useless, I checked out about forty-five minutes ago. I’m no longer registering anything the teacher is saying. I look around the room to see how the children a few decades younger than me are doing.
I’m immersed in a local middle-school classroom environment. I quickly realize I’m not the only one having a hard time paying attention. About 50 percent of the children are fidgeting and most of the remaining children are either slouched in the most unnatural positions imaginable or slumped over their desks. A child suddenly gets up to sharpen their pencil. A few minutes later, another child raises their hand and asks to go to the bathroom. In fact, at least three children have asked to go to the bathroom in the past twenty minutes. I’m mentally exhausted and the day has just begun. I was planning on observing the whole day. I just can’t do it. I decide to leave right after lunch.
There is no way I could tolerate six hours of sitting even just one day, never mind every day – day after day. How on Earth do these children tolerate sitting this long? Well, the short answer is they don’t. Their bodies aren’t designed for extended periods of sitting. In fact, none of our bodies are made to stay sedentary for lengths of time. This lack of movement and unrelenting sitting routine, are wreaking havoc on their bodies and minds. Bodies start to succumb to these unnatural positions and sedentary lifestyle through atrophy of the muscles, tightness of ligaments (where there shouldn’t be tightness), and underdeveloped sensory systems – setting them up for weak bodies, poor posturing, and inefficient sensory processing of the world around them.
If most of the classroom is fidgeting and struggling to even hold their bodies upright, in desperation to stay engaged – this is a really good indicator that they need to move more. In fact, it doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you are. If children have to learn by staying in their seats most of the day, their brains will naturally tune out after a while – wasting the time of everyone.
Students more than ever, especially in middle school need to get up out of their seats. It allows them to engage in their learning. They have fun with the lesson and ultimately remember more information and not just to pass their tests. They can develop their own theories and test them in a virtual "lab."
In a SMALLab, students use their imagination, get creative and have the opportunity to play while learning. SMALLab is a collaborative where a teacher can ask a question, let the students discuss the topic, and figure out possible solutions together. SMALLab brings a variety of experiences to the classroom so students can work together, interact, move and play.