Every class I have taken in school, I have not gotten below an A-, yet the most knowledge I have gained has not been in the classroom. The reality is, our left-brain memorizes facts before an exam, we answer multiple-choice questions, write a few short answers, then a few months later, we forget the majority of what we learned.
But then I went on an internship to Greece for seven weeks and volunteered at the centre of social welfare in the summer of my first year of university. I met students from all over the world and travelled for the first time in my life outside of North America. I lived on my own. I booked flights and planned trips with new friends and organized different games, events and crafts for the children at the centre. I communicated with others who spoke Greek. I figured out a bus system that was all in Greek. THAT was when I started to really learn something – life skills that couldn’t be taught in school.
I had time to discover myself through hiking up mountains, jumping off cliffs, meditating, cooking, travelling by myself, talking with others and gaining a global perspective. The information we learn in school should be applied to real life and should help guide us and direct us to finding ourselves, while giving us the tools we need to articulate what we truly believe in.
School should be a place where we can focus on our wellbeing in a positive and encouraging environment. School should set us up for success in our advanced and complex world.
Here is how I would change the school system to improve the health of children and set up their path for success:
- Exercise: After completing Grade 9 gym class, students have the decision to continue gym throughout their high school career. This means they have a chance of remaining sedentary for the rest of their lives, leading to long-term health problems. Healthy habits need to start young. With children bringing digital technology to schools, constantly staring at smart boards and sitting the majority of their days to study, they need time to move. Safety concerns from helicopter parents have reduced playgrounds to stones and logs, not letting children be monkeys on playgrounds and imagine a jungle of endless possibilities!
What we need: Adjustable standing desks and periods throughout the day for children to participate in yoga classes, kickboxing, and rock climbing walls. We need a little adventure to be scheduled into children’s days that encourage physical literacy and physical stimulation.
- Mindfulness: ADHD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks; all issues that children didn’t have nearly as much of in the past, are increasing at alarming rates. Students need time to get away from the stress of school, and learn to manage their emotions and feelings.
What we need: Meditation spaces, both guided meditation and soothing music. With a focus on breathing and freeing minds by living in the present, teenagers would be considerably more focused and less anxious.
- Nutrition: Just the fact alone that canned tomato sauce on a slice of pre-heated pizza counts as a serving of vegetables says enough about our lunch programs. Kids are guzzling down bottles of Gatorade and Coca-Cola, without knowing that these sugar filled habits can lead to unhealthy behaviours and consequences to their future health. They can be better students with diets abundant in fruits and veggies!
What we need: Plant-based hot meals prepared with love each day. Fresh salad bars and fruit baskets replacing pre-cooked and preservative filled fried foods can provide children with the brain and mood boosting fuel they need for their school day.
- Life skills: It’s sad to see college students getting an A in class, but failing on all accounts of how to cook a pot of oatmeal. Students are not taught the basic life skills of cooking, using social media properly and safely, having an interview and being punctual or discovering their purpose in life in ANY classroom.
What we need: Cooking classes, personal development and media and communication classes need to be mandatory, ensuring children are knowledgeable on how to survive and succeed in the 21st century.
- Right-brained dominance: We put such an emphasis on left-brain thinking, being that most classes are about memorizing and replicating our notes onto an exam. This is an informational way of thinking, and does not serve us in the long run with automation and exporting of repetitive tasks to other countries with cheaper wages. (More info here on right-brained thinking)
What we need: Majority of our time in class should be about seeing the bigger picture. They need to learn to connect information on a micro and macro level, like in biology – not only seeing how a cell functions, but how millions of cells work to create a person’s body as a whole. They should be spending more time in art and music class, which encourage them to create, think critically, problem solve, and innovate. These classes allowing children to strive towards unique and authentic ideas, not repetition and regurgitation.
- Financial Literacy: Children are never taught in school how to deal with money in terms of what to save, what to spend, and what to give away. Parents are supposed to be their role models, but if they have a pile of debt in their bank accounts, where will they learn how to handle cash?
What we need: Teens need classes teaching them about how to properly manage money, and how to create money through multiple mediums. They need to be exposed to the area of entrepreneurship, as there is a new wave of online businesses through blogging, podcasts, E-books etc.
If our school system taught life skills that children sometimes never learn, our world would be a much more functional and successful world. Children would understand themselves, know where they are going, and would stop switching majors, or taking minimum wage jobs after completing university degrees. If they were inspired to start businesses, gain global perspectives and develop creative and innovative problem-solving minds, they would rule the world.
Peace & Love,
Jill – your veggie villager xx