Schools try ‘standing desks’

Standing DesksNew desks are designed for students to stand at Vallecito Elementary.

Sitting still no longer is a challenge at an elementary school north of San Francisco. With funding from parents, four classrooms at Vallecito Elementary are equipped with “standing desks.” The desks come equipped with a swinging foot stand, called a “fidget bar.”

“It allows for the students to really kind of wiggle, but their mind and focus is still on me,” Gina Roberts, a fourth-grade teacher, told KPIX 5.

Students given standing desks stay “on task” 12 percent more than sitters, according to a Texas A&M study. In the study, students in grades two through four had the option of sitting on a stool or standing.

Student engagement was monitored by actions such as answering a question, raising a hand, or participating in discussion, while off-task behaviors included talking out of turn.

One of the researchers, Professor Mark Benden is co-founder of a start-up, Stand2Learn, which sells standing desks and stools. “He became interested in the standing desks as a way to reduce childhood obesity” and relieve spinal stress, reports Campus Technology.

The new, nicer PE

Although she comes from a dodgeball-loving family, Rachel Levy thinks it’s time to reinvent PE, she writes on All Things Education.

The new, nicer PE bans dodgeball, exercise as punishment and rewarding the most athletic students.

In are personal fitness plans, target heart-rate zones, and sports that play to different strengths and introduce students to activities that they can pursue across a lifetime. “Physically literate” and “lifelong movers” are buzzwords of the New PE.

Even for her athletic sons, who are starting middle school, the new approach makes sense, writes Levy. But will PE be pushed out by academics?

I hated dodgeball. I threatened to drop out of high school if required to walk on a balance beam. (My counselor, a former PE teacher, negotiated a compromise.)  I won the National Teachers of English contest (state of Illinois) with a biographical essay on my loathing for field hockey titled Confessions of a Physically Educated Woman.

Now I exercise every day for 45 to 90 minutes, combining weight training, walking, swimming and a weekly Zumba class. Why? Because I want to control my diabetes and stave off general decay.

Fat or fit?

This nine-year-old — 4-foot-1 and 66 pounds — is overweight, according to a “Fitnessgram” sent home by her Staten Island school. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Why did I get this?’” Gwendolyn Williams said.

Photo: New York Post, Stephen Yang.

Photo: New York Post, Stephen Yang.

 Nearly a third of the world’s population is overweight or obese, according to a new report. The rate for children is up by 47 percent from 1980 to 2013.  About 23 percent of children in developed countries were found to be overweight or obese. Even in poor countries, there are more overweight kids.

Fighting obesity — or picking on fat kids?

Ads attacking childhood obesity look a lot like ads attacking obese children. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is running TV commercials and billboards with overweight children to make Georgians worry more about the problem, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The state ranks second in the nation for childhood obesity: Forty percent of children are overweight or obese. But half of adults don’t see it as a major health issue and 75 percent of parents with overweight or obese children don’t think their kids need to slim down.

Some public health experts, however, say the approach could be counterproductive when it comes to childhood obesity. The commercials and billboards do not give families the tools they need to attack the problem, some critics say. Others say the images will simply further stigmatize obesity and make it even less likely for parents and children to acknowledge that their weight is unhealthy and should be addressed.

“We know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior,” said Karen Hilyard, a University of Georgia health communication researcher.

The President’s Fitness Award will be given to any child who can eat without sweating, reports The Onion.

Finally conceding it is unrealistic to expect today’s children to complete a pull-up, run a mile, or touch their toes, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition announced the new standard.  “We want our kids to set more pragmatic, real-world goals for themselves, and being able to run back and forth across a basketball court one time is no longer realistic,”  said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the council.

It’s satire, but uncomfortably close to reality.

Keeping second-graders on the ball

Rachel Anglin, a second-grade teacher at Greenbrook Elementary in Southaven, Mississippi is on the ball. Anglin and her 24 students are sitting on exercise balls donated by a local fitness center, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The balls “help the mind,” Anglin says. “If your body is working, your mind is working.”

The rules state, “Two feet on the ground,” “Balls stay on the floor,” and “No jumping, rolling or bouncing high.”

A little bouncing is fine.  “It helps them get the wiggles out,” Anglin says.