Tuesday Tidbits, October 19, 2010

Been thinking about non-fiction books that aren’t about schools but say a lot about kids and adults and education, and these three come to mind: Alex Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here and the late Michael Dorris’s The Broken Cord and Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. What can you add to this list?

Interesting piece from the Washington Post about school districts tackling chronic absenteeism. Great examples of what Baltimore City schools are doing, where 14% of elementary students are chronically absent: School personnel “reach out to families to figure out the reason for the absenteeism and what can be done. Sometimes students simply need a ride to school. Sometimes they need an extra school uniform or a visit to a health clinic. At one elementary school…a principal has arranged with a local barbershop to give haircuts to students who may be missing school because of concerns about their personal appearance.”

See this blog entry on fitness and its place in school from friend and runner Kevin Washburn. He talks about how “fit children possess more of the neural geography used in learning and thinking” and that “childhood fitness affects capacities that uphold and empower learning.” I like Kevin’s question at the end: “Since physical movement seems to improve cognitive ‘movement,’ how do we help our students get smarter by moving more?”

I went to elementary school in a small college town in New Hampshire, and there was no lack of fitness: Each Wednesday during the winter was a half day, as what seemed to be the entire town went skiing. All children got lessons, with coaches trained and funded by the Ford Sayre program, and I remember heading to the golf course’s rope tow and practicing slalom on a small course, my mother one of my instructors. Hard to imagine this kind of community outdoor activity happening these days, but I want to be surprised: Tell me where it does occur.

Lastly, this YouTube video of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson has been buzzing around the Internet; I like the section near its end on divergent thinking – that our ability to think divergently wanes the more and more we get “educated.”

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