Countless questions continue to surround education in Oklahoma. But what if the answer to some of those problems is less work and more play? One district is trying out the approach and has been doing so for a full school year.
"It's a huge change in the kids, they're happy, they're focused and they're more active," said Jessica Cassel, 6th grade teacher.
As soon as you get on school grounds in Chattanooga, it's evident that Cassel and others are running with the idea that more play is the way. Up until this year, Cassel's 6th grade class didn't even have recess.
"It took about 6-8 weeks for them to realize it's ok to run and laugh and play and be silly," said Cassel.
Now students in 6th grade and below, have recess four times a day, 15 minutes each. It's the center piece to Dr. Debbie Rhea's program, Liink. She got the idea from Finland years ago.
This year, Superintendent Jerry Brown wanted in. He liked the idea that moving is a must. Rain or shine. Hot or cold.
"We think it's going to make a tougher kid, more resilient and more prepared later in life which is what our job is, to make them productive citizens," said Superintendent Brown.
That play is unstructured. No balls are allowed to encourage imagination and creativity. Back in the classroom life lessons are part of the daily lesson. The Golden Rule now a focal point for some projects.
As for the other subjects, Ms. Cassel said those are also sticking with students. One student in particular, who struggled last year, has increased reading levels and math scores. That gives him and Liink a passing grade.
"I think he is a direct result of needing the brain breaks. Needing to go, and running, and coming back and refocusing. It all sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? It's not. It's wonderful,” said Cassel.
Due to the school’s size, Chattanooga 6th graders are the only 6th graders in the program. The other schools, which are all in Texas, are limited to lower grades. Also, up until now the program has been free, but the organizers of Liink are now working on grants to help future schools.