Our kids are overweight and their test scores are too low. How should we fix that? I know! Let’s add vocabulary and math to gym class!
That’s exactly what some schools around the country have done. The New York Times reports:
Across the country, P.E. teachers now post vocabulary lists on gym walls, ask students to test Newton’s Laws of Motion as they toss balls, and give quizzes on parts of the skeleton or food groups.
So long, soccer. Greeting, geography golf.
Goodbye, floor hockey. Bonjour, counting jumping jacks in foreign languages.
Adieu, plain old push-ups. Hello, sorting Legos between each one.
According to the Times, more school districts are shoving reading, writing, and arithmetic into P.E. in an effort to improve students’ test scores and “add value” to gym class.
Considering that schools across the nation have eliminated recess in elementary schools, it’s really no wonder that some have targeted gym class for an injection of the core programs of science, math, reading, English, and social studies.
Even though studies have shown that kids learn through play, schools have been squeezing play out of our kids’ school days for years, mainly to keep up with increasingly stringent requirements for testing scores.
I’m all for bringing P.E. into math, English, and more. It’s why places like the new Museum of Mathematics, which my kids and I visited this weekend, are so popular and effective in teaching kids. Running around a little while you learn about geometry helps kids remember and retain.
But learning about geometry while you’re supposed to be just running around? That’s all wrong. A kid who steps up to play goalie in gym class when she’s not sure she can do it is going to learn quite a bit about teamwork, overcoming fear, and personal strength. Also, diving.
But if that same kid has to name the countries in South America while blocking shots, well, then we’re teaching kids that what matters most in life is what you can stuff into your head, rather than what you can learn from your heart. And there’s more to a child’s education than what appears on a standardized test.
Now that’s a lesson worth learning.
So, please. Keep your flash cards and geography golf out of our children’s gym classes. Let the children play.