School Daze: Information Overload

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School is a place to learn and grow, as we all well know. It is a place to make friends and develop with the people you surround yourself with. School is where you learn things that will educate you on the world around you and help you use the things for a long time to come. It is a place to become your own person and learn to be creatively progressive. But so many students seem under-enthusiastic about going to school, and even about learning at. It becomes more of a habit than an enjoyment. But could this be the cause of the school set up, and not just the student?

Currently, the way schools are set up is smothering the ability to be creative. The cogs in our head are getting rusty. There is a leak of water and it is turning into a steady stream. That rust might seem to be caused by kids not using their brains, but could it be something else? Perhaps the problem lies in having too much school, or rather, too much school in too little time.

So is sitting in school literally frying our brains?

The word school, for many, does not ensue enjoyment. I hear it all the time in the halls of my school, from the mouths of the teenagers I am surrounded by, from friends who go to many other schools. Disregard for education it is depicted on television shows and in movies– it is everywhere. And it sadly seems like an accurate depiction. But why is this happening? Why are teenagers not excited to learn new things in a school setting? There may be some things we can change about the way the school system is set up to help achieve the best academic outcome and greatest excitement of learning in students today.

In Pre-K and Kindergarten children are allowed snack time, naptime, and lots of educational playtime. When they are in elementary school they are often allowed recess to get wiggles out and get energy moving. But as children get into Middle School and High School the days become longer, the workload becomes heavier, and the desire to learn diminishes. It seems like kids are simply less interested in what is being taught, and while this may be much of the case this is not the source of the problem. The problem lies in one major problem: losing the ability to absorb what you are learning.

Students often seem to be disinterested in anything academical. This may not be entirely they fault of the student. Studies have shown that the brain can only truly focus on something and absorb the information efficiently in chunks of about forty-five minutes at a time before the absorption of information decreases drastically; yet, children and adolescence are put into classroom settings for eight hours a day and are expected to retain everything they are taught each day. This eight-hour time limit does not include other academic responsibilities such as extracurricular activities or homework. Our brains do not have the capacity to absorb or retain that much information even on our best days.

Let us use just the high school years as an example. High school lasts four years: ninth to twelfth grade. When you repeat the cycle of remaining stagnant for eight hours a day every day for four years, without adding in any other school related requirements like homework or otherwise, it is no longer such a wonder why kids are always exhausted and never feel inclined to learn in school. Students become physically drained because their mental agility has been so dried out.

One other major problem with the eight-hour a day schedule coincides with information absorption and that is the problem of being too stagnant or sitting too much. There have been recent studies about sitting for long periods of time that add to the importance of taking breaks and allowing your body and mind time to catch up and soak in what it has learned. Scientists are still trying to understand all the problems with sitting for long periods of time but remaining stagnant for extended periods of time has been shown to lead to decrease in mental health, obesity and even heart disease. Studies also say that there is a “50 percent increased risk of death”.(Levine, MayoClinic) When you combine the results of this study with the fact that your brain stops being able to retain information efficiently after a certain period of time it would seem that we are quite literally burning our brains out, and not only that, but decreasing our lifespan in the process.

The solution to this problem is to align the scheduling of school more like colleges. College classes are around fifty minutes long and they are not back-to-back. They may nor even be every day, depending on the classes that you take and in between classes you get up and move from class to class with more than 5 minutes between classes. This allows time for your brain to absorb the information it has just taken in and also allows your body to get into its normal flow again. A student can achieve their associates in two years time in college and their bachelors in four years, so why would it be so different if we were to adjust what we teach to more of a college type time-schedule anyways? It would do better at preparing them for college and it would aid in their brain and body function.

If we were to give students the ability to get their body moving, get their blood flowing, and take a break from all the information they are trying to intake in an eight-hour time crunch then I believe the success of students learning would increase drastically and their creativity will increase because their minds and bodies will be functioning in the way that they are supposed to. Students will learn more because they will retain more. Their minds will be more able to try new things and look at things more creatively because they will not always be trying to recover from the information overload. In the case of your mind verses time, less is more.

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References and Citations:

Levine, James. “Sitting Risks: How Harmful Can It Be?.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 12 June 2012. Web. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005&gt;.

Doheny, Kathleen. “Sitting Your Life Away?” WebMD. WebMD, 7 Apr. 2014. Web. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/20140407/sitting-disease-faq?page=2&gt;.

“Sustained Attention.” Natural Health Care Canada. Natural Health Care Canada. Web. <http://naturalhealthcare.ca/glossaries.phtml?term=sustained attention#.VSC9P5TF95A>.

Photos obtained through Flickr:

Creative Commons, Eaglebrook-School-Country-Fair-2014-Classes201410167737, Uploaded on October 16, 2014 by EaglebrookSchool (Copyright: EaglebrookSchool. I do not own this image. No changes were made)

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