Educating the Whole Child: Approach & Examples

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  • 0:04 Whole Child Education
  • 1:03 Students Must Be…
  • 2:27 Students Must Be Engaged
  • 3:00 Students Must Be Supported
  • 3:45 Students Must Be Challenged
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alicia Taylor

Alicia has taught students of all ages and has a master's degree in Education

When we teach a student, we teach a whole person. Forgetting this, teachers sometimes treat students as disembodied brains. To educate the whole child, teachers must remember that their students have bodies, emotions, backgrounds, and interests.

Whole Child Education

Students are not computers. They're muscle and bounce, question and opinion, struggle and wonder. Students are not test-takers. They are full of ping-ponging plot summaries and ratio-teaching dances. Students are not failures. They're sprouting scientists and flowering filmmakers. Students are whole people, and whole people have diverse needs.

This is the belief behind whole child education, as it is embodied in the Whole Child Initiative launched in 2007 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). According to the ASCD, schools have historically focused too narrowly on academic achievement. Without denying the necessity of memorizing facts and learning academic skills, the Whole Child Initiative points to five additional ingredients. The whole child needs to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Students Must Be Healthy & Safe

According to the ASCD, students must come to school healthy. Poor nutrition leads to poor attention. Obesity and illness can cause the child to miss class. No matter how effective a classroom lesson may be, no student can benefit unless he or she is fit enough to attend.

But how can a school affect a student's health? Beyond the required vaccinations and health codes, schools can add more of what they are meant to do: teach. To educate the whole child, schools teach children about nutrition and provide healthy options at lunch time. Schools have also created school gardens. These school gardens are tended by teachers and students, and the produce is used in the school cafeteria. This gives students a chance to learn about the scientific processes behind produce.

Bullying presents an unfortunate reality in our schools. So do poorly maintained school buildings. The brain's cognitive functions don't work as well when a person is afraid. So students can't learn in frightening environments. Besides, the ASCD cites research showing that frightened students often don't stay in school long enough to graduate.

This may not sound radical. After all, schools have always prohibited bullying. But whole child education focuses less on punishment and more on prevention. To create a safe environment, schools focus on teaching integrity, social skills, cooperation, and positive character traits throughout every lesson, from math to literature.

Students Must Be Engaged

Students who are engaged feel that they are a part of their school and that the school values them. Engaged students participate in classroom discussions. They aren't bored. They get excited about creative ways to use their knowledge. If they can't attend school, they sense that they will be missed.

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