How best to engage school-aged children and keep them from falling through the cracks? Take it from someone who’s been there.

How best to engage school-aged children and keep them from falling through the cracks? Take it from someone who’s been there. Michael Hynes, Ed.D., the final speaker at Adelphi’s TEDx conference March 31, 2017, spoke about how he loved elementary school. Using the analogy of a lightbulb, he explained that he started shining brightly, but as the years progressed and children began to be sorted and labeled, his lightbulb flickered and then smashed.

By high school, his hero had become John Bender, the rebellious underachiever from the Generation X -defining film, The Breakfast Club.

But Dr. Hynes’ light didn’t go out. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in education. He’s currently superintendent at the Patchogue-Medford School District and a dedicated advocate for public schools and holistic education.

In “Why PEAS Are the Key to a Successful Education,” Dr. Hynes maintained that in an age where public school students take a mind-boggling 112 standardized tests during their school years, we are doing them a grave disservice by not looking at them holistically. “We are all people, and they are all children,” he said, to audience applause.

PEAS, he said, stands for:
* Physical growth
* Emotional growth
* Academic growth
* Social growth

“Children need to play often,” he said. “They need child-directed recess. And they need to learn to self-regulate their emotions.”

In his district, Dr. Hynes increased recess and brought back items once familiar in lower-grade classrooms, such as kitchen sets and Legos. When children have their physical, emotional and social needs met, they are able to focus and improve academically. And in high school, “music and art are as important as AP science.”

Last fall, when Dr. Hynes was among the panelists at Adelphi’s Robert and Augusta P. Finkelstein Lecture, he voiced similar sentiments.  His district has brought back recess and incorporated play and physical activity into the classroom, solutions that may sound radical to some but have proven benefits and, he said, should be common sense. “The over-standardization of education and the hyper-focus on numbers and literacy minimize the teacher profession, almost to the point where they’re considered unprofessional,” he said at that event.

Adelphi University | TEDx | Performing Arts Center | March 31, 2017 | Credit: Chris Bergmann Photography

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