A breath of fresh air


This article shows the pure and utter brilliance of the Finnish school system and I highly recommend having a read.


A few interesting points gathered from the article:

  • Children in Finland don’t begin formal education until that age of 7
  • Children have a mandatory 15 minute outdoor play break every hour (YES!)
  • “There is no bad weather, only inadequate clothing”
  • Children are assessed everyday through direct observation (rather than through rigorous testing)
  • They are allowed to have fun, giggle and day dream from time to time in the classroom
  • The words “let children be children” are often heard throughout the corridors
  • Classrooms are warm, safe and welcoming
  • Teaching is a highly respected career which requires a Masters level qualification

If you ask me we could learn a LOT from Finland. What’s more is that Finland also have some of the best academic results from their adolescents showing that starting school at 7 isn’t that a bad idea after all.

Well done Finland!

Playground Vs Classroom

The playground is a place full of wonder, imagination, fun, activity and laughter whereas the classroom is a place of concentration, learning and development, or so we thought…

Recent research has shown that brain development in children is more likely to occur in the playground rather than in the classroom. ┬áResearcher Sergio Pellis has stated that play changes the connections of the neurons in the pre – frontal cortex of the brain. These connections allow for children to develop the skills they need for school work and life in general. He also states how by ‘play’ he means free play, play with no rules, instructions, guidance or interference. Instead he suggests children should be left to their own devices when in the playground, as this is the best way for the brain to develop.

Play develops a child’s social skills and by allowing children to play freely with one another improvements in social interaction will occur as will further neural connections which will ultimately lead to better academic performance at school.

So why are we still confining children to the classroom?!

There has been plenty of research to broadcast the importance of children having time to play outside yet it is often over looked and we simply carry on doing things the way they have always been done. I believe it’s time for a change. Of course I believe children should be educated but I strongly feel more outdoor play needs to take place in order to stimulate children’s brain development and improve mental health and well being.


Less time outside than prisoners


In some cases prisoners are only allowed 1 hour outside per day. Whilst this seems inhumane, more are more children are spending LESS than 1 hour outside per day. A shocking statistic.

Although 74% of children are not allowed outside due to the fears of parents and guardians, many children actively choose to not go outdoors. The unreliable British weather is also to blame (as stated by 82% of parents surveyed for the Persil ‘Dirt is good’ campaign), as is the lack of time.

It has been reported that 77% of children refuse to play a game unless it involves technology which also means that classic British games such as ‘conkers’ are dying out. Yes, technology has some benefits for children and can aid in their development but, the outdoors has certain qualities that cannot be replicated on a screen.

I’m not sure how, but outdoor education needs to be made more prominent in schools. Perhaps teachers need to be trained further, more money could be placed into developing outdoor facilities and technology could be switched off or a day!

Children are growing up detached from nature and something needs to be done in order to stop this.



Preschool and saws?!

Preschool and saws are two words that aren’t often seen together. However, York House Nursery in County Durham have introduced REAL hammers, saws and drills into their establishment. Whilst the thought of a two year old holding a saw sends shivers down the spine of most parents and teachers, at this nursery it is actively encouraged.

The weight of the tools means that the children’s arms and hands are stronger and more developed which will benefit them when it’s time to begin writing. The nursery manager has also stated that the children concentration has improved as well as their communication skills.

Of course there is the issues of safety but the children are closely monitored and encouraged to stay within their own space in order to prevent harming others which further develops their spatial abilities.

It seems as though the positives of using real tools outweigh the negatives. Hence, the introduction of real tools in nurseries and schools should be made more widespread. Teaching children at a young age how to use tools responsibly will benefit them later on in life. Although I feel children should be able to just be children, I am for the idea of encouraging children to learn about the world they live in through experiencing it through their own eyes.


Patch Adams

It’s not often a movie inspires me but last night I watched the film ‘Patch Adams’ for the first time. All I can say is WOW.

The film is about a man named Patch who inspires to be a doctor in order to help others, yet he isn’t the average doctor. Instead he focuses on the nature of treating patients as people rather than as part of the system. Whilst at medical school Patch visits the local hospital and enters the children’s ward. The sick children are all laying down in their beds, sad faced, pale and dying. As soon as Patch enters the room it’s almost as if a breath of fresh air appears. He jokes around and introduces a bit of humour into the lives of these ill children. He brings a smile to their faces, and clowns around. He doesn’t look at the children as though they are dying, but instead as people.

As the film progresses Patch sets up his own clinic in which he treats patients from his own home – this was known as The Gesundheit Institute.

Adam’s philosophy of humour is ground breaking. He has changed the lives of so many people and made life more enjoyable for so many people. Oh and one other thing… Patch Adams is a real person. Whilst i’m sure his story was adapted slightly for the film, many of the ethos present throughout are very much true. Gesundheit institute is now in it’s 45th year with projects running all over the world. Adams is still clowning around and bringing a smile to children’s faces.

The main thing I gathered from Patch Adams is his genuine love of life and helping others. Something I feel more people need to aspire to do. He has made me realise that life isn’t all about education but rather happiness, joy, fun and laughter. It’s ok to be a little bit crazy! Let children explore and experience the world around them. Learning occurs through seeing and doing so let children be children!


More than just academic intelligence

I attended a lecture this morning based on intelligence and became fascinated with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence. When you are asked to name someone ‘intelligent’ people often state names such as Einstein or Stephen Hawking who have incredibly high IQ scores. The same IQ tests have been used for generations and it is believed that those who perform best on these tests are the most intelligent. However, Gardner’s theory states how there are in fact multiple forms of intelligence including:

  1. Verbal – linguistic
  2. Logical – mathematical
  3. Bodily – kinaesthetic
  4. Visual – spatial
  5. Musical – rhythmic
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalistic

He argues that intelligence isn’t just about maths and academic ability. It comes in many forms and some people display aspects of intelligence for areas such as interpersonal intelligence which relies heavily on the ability to listen and cooperate with others. Emotional intelligence is somewhat overlooked in the field of intelligence but is actually one of the most important forms of intelligence a person can possess. Emotional intelligence is also said to be a greater predictor than IQ in terms of job prospects. At around the age of 3 children learn a concept known as ‘Theory of Mind’. This is the idea of understanding that others thought processes and views can differ from your own. Without this ability children and adults would struggle to understand those around them hence why it holds such importance.

Gardner states how schools and the education system could learn a lot from his theory. He suggests that children should not all be taught in the same may but rather should be educated according to their strengths, for example, if a child has high bodily – kinaesthetic intelligence then they tend to have strength, endurance and enjoy moving around rather than being sat at a desk for 7 hours a day. Gardener also states how we simply teach children too much, he explains it as ‘a mile wide and an inch thick’, we don’t tend to teach children anything in great detail but rather touch upon subjects and move on in order to satisfy the curriculum. In order for children to truly tap into their intelligence we need to provide them with less information but at a greater level of detail. In order to do this more time needs to be spent on music, dance, sport and nature rather than an emphasis being placed upon maths and science.

The video below shows Gardner himself explaining his theory in more depth:

Break time… maybe

It saddens me how children are being deprived of outdoor play, breaks and recess. There is so much of an emphasis placed on following an unrealistic curriculum that teachers are keeping their students in the classroom for longer amounts of time in order to make sure their children meet the set targets and goals put in place by the Government. Whilst it does appear our children are getting “brighter”, they are suffering from a lack of outdoor time, some more so than others. Those with behavioural problems and ADHD are the groups most effected by this. Outdoor play is some what portrayed as a privilege for children, teachers often say statements such as “if you don’t finish your work now you will have to stay in at break time”. Those with ADHD struggle to sit down for long periods of time and therefore require outdoor play opportunities more than most. The classroom setting for this group of children is a daily struggle made no easier by limiting and restricting access to the outside world. Recess and break time should not be viewed as a privilege but rather a chance for children to simply be free, be themselves and explore. As the word suggests it’s time for a break!

Teachers and playground supervisors should supervise children during this period but not simply tell them what to do or stop them from exploring. If children want to sit on the dusty ground and watch ants climb up sticks then so be it. Outdoor play and recess are beneficial to children in more ways than one including academic benefits and physical movement.

Break time needs to be taken more seriously, children should not be deprived of their childhood.