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Children’s literacy linked to healthy eating

Nursery World – Kathryn Ingham

“The research published in the European Journal of Nutrition, followed 161 children in Finland aged between six and eight. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries and evaluated according to Finnish nutritional recommendations. The closer a child’s eating habits were to the Baltic Sea Diet – high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish and low fat milk, and low in sugar, saturated fats and red meat – the healthier it was considered. The study shows that children with higher quality diets perform better in standardised tests measuring reading, fluency and comprehension, when compared to children whose diets are low in nutritional value.”(more)

Kindergarten, Naturally

The Atlantic – Timothy D. Walker

““To the brook! To the brook!” the three girls chanted in Finnish as they skipped through the forest. Within a few minutes, the other kindergartners had joined them in the fern-covered gully. As their teacher Kaija Pelo and I stood on a hill observing the children at play below us, two boys in baseball caps poked sticks into the brook (Pelo said they were “fishing”) while other children teetered across a fallen pine tree, which served as a natural bridge over the running water. Most kindergartners, though, appeared to be doing nothing except wandering along the length of the brook. For these 5- and 6-year-olds, this forest is their kindergarten classroom—nearly 80 percent of the time. Four days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Finland’s required amount of daily kindergarten instruction), this group of 14 children is outside with their veteran teacher and two classroom aides. In Finland, this is not a typical kindergarten setting (only a handful of forest kindergartens exist in this Nordic country), but in Europe, such places have been popular for decades.”(more)

Healthy diet boosts children’s reading skills

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“A heathy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä. The study involved 161 children aged 6-8 years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations – i.e. high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat – the healthier it was considered.”(more)

Children need three hours exercise a day – Finland

BBC – Staff Writer

“Children should spend at least three hours a day performing physical activities, according to the Finnish government. Parents have been advised to actively encourage their children to pursue hobbies and interests that require physical exertion. Children aged eight and under have been targeted in the move. Finland is known for producing some of the most physically fit children in Europe. It also produces some of the highest academic results among schoolchildren in the developed world.”(more)

We’d be better at math if the U.S. borrowed these four ideas for training teachers from Finland, Japan and China

The Hechinger Report – Emmanuel Felton

“Why don’t American students really get math? Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems. Tucker describes a vicious cycle. “We are mainly recruiting teacher candidates from the bottom half of the kids who go to college,” said Tucker. “These kids come out of high school with a very shaky command of high school math and eventually become teachers who can show their students the steps for doing a long division problem, but can’t tell them why it works. So when their students get to high school, they can’t really do algebra either because they don’t understand how the arithmetic works.” In a new report released by NCEE, researcher Ben Jensen looks at what America can learn from how teacher-training institutions in top performing countries prepare elementary school teachers for the classroom. He examined how four systems – Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong – arm teachers with a rich understanding of the subject areas they will teach and how their future students will learn that content.”(more)

Why The Simple Solution To Academic Success Might Be More Recess

The Huffington Post – Catherine Pearson

“As schools look for more time to squeeze in math, reading and other academic subjects, a long-time cornerstone of elementary school life has taken a hit: recess. According to national estimates, first graders in U.S. public schools in 2005 averaged just under 28 minutes of recess a day. By grade six, it’s roughly 24. But an alternate model, inspired by the Finnish system of peppering short breaks throughout the day, hopes to reverse the tide against unstructured playtime by encouraging schools to add back precious recess minutes in order to curb burnout and improve learning. Dubbed the “LiiNK Project” and founded by Debbie Rhea, associate dean of research in Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences with Texas Christian University, the program has two arms: A character development component intended to foster intangibles like empathy and self-worth, and a restructuring of recess modeled after Finnish schools.”(more)