02/01/2013 06:05 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2013

The Playground Is a Classroom Too

We are all concerned about the high percentage of our students failing to graduate from high school. The ability of our country to maintain a leadership position as a world economic power is at stake. For many of us, our trust and faith in our public education system has been shattered.

There is no shortage of solutions offered to solve this problem. These solutions come under creative titles such as "Race to the Top," or "Time to Succeed." Most of these solutions emphasize increased testing, calls for more instruction days and extending the learning time into after-school. While these methods may indeed have some merit, it is essential that we test for unintended consequences of such programs.

One such unintended consequence is making youngsters who already have a sedentary lifestyle become even more sedentary. Not only will this have a negative impact on a child's physical well- being and overall health, but we know for a fact that being sedentary has a deleterious impact a child's ability to learn. There is plenty of evidence that suggests that youngsters who are regularly involved in physical activity are more ready to learn.

And we must also remember that not all learning takes place in the classroom. Youngsters are more apt to learn to negotiate disagreements among themselves on a field of play than in a classroom. Boys and girls who may be failing in the classroom and whose self-esteem may be a very low, may succeed on the field of play and take that feeling of success into the classroom.

While the current notion of the school day may harken back to when we were an agricultural society as some claim, in that era the young people were getting plenty of physical activity. That is certainly not the case at present.

As we look to help our young people prepare for leadership in the contemporary world, let us use all that we have learned about the process of learning. Do not chain our young people to chairs with the intention of filling their minds. Leave room for the expansion of knowledge through team work, leadership and decision making on the fields of play and sport.