Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Despite government efforts to propose an increase in the number of hours per week young people spend being physically active, these efforts are often initiated from the top down and are not particularly well funded or supported. Physical activity levels among children and young people are decreasing in much of the developed world, and in particular during the school hours in recess. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends children have 60 minutes of daily physical activity. According to statistics by a Norwegian research entity, among nine year olds in Norway about 70% of girls and 86% of boys reach these levels. Among 15 year olds, however, only 43% of girls and 58% of boys reach this activity level. With the growing prevalence of technology and mobile devices, the incentive to be active is also shifting. Whereas sports historically have required physical activity, a team, and sports equipment, nowadays they can be entirely virtual. Children play games on their cell phones during recess rather than interact with other students, stunting the acquisition of important social and emotional intelligence. A study of 8-18 year olds shows that they spend 6.5 hours on average per day using personal media devices. According to the WHO, poor levels of physical activity will pose major health problems for the future, in terms of quality of life and also the social, economic, and health costs of chronic disease. In Norway, for example, one in five adults are obese; with rates even more alarming in other developed countries globally. Recess is currently an overlooked yet critically important opportunity for shaping active lifestyle that promotes overall health.
The rates of persistent bullying in schools are also on the rise. In Norway, 60% of all bullying in Norway takes place in the schoolyard. As it is today across Scandinavia, recess is unstructured time during which children can do as they please. This leaves more time for direct bullying, but also exclusive games and activities that leave the quiet, shy and less popular children out. What is needed is a more structured recess program that works to integrate all types of children, regardless of their popularity, gender, race, or size.
In addition to psychological distress due to bullying in childhood and adolescence, those who have been bullied often struggle with mental health problems in adulthood. Those who have bullied others also have statistically poorer prospects for a good life in the long term. In order to combat bullying, one must work continuously and through a targeted approach that incentivizes young people to act in a more empathetic and inclusive way. Many anti-bullying programs that already exist, however, are designed such that schools and adults lead the reduction of bullying, a less effective tactic which fails to emphasize change from within the population of young people themselves.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In schools across Scandinavia, young children experience boredom and inactivity during recess, opening channels for conflict, bullying, and poor health outcomes to more easily emerge. Kjartan Eide is redesigning recess in schools by adding an incentive system that urges young people to engage in physical activity and serve as role models for their classmates. Trivselsprogrammet (TL), which means “Wellbeing Program” in Norwegian, is a program that creates a system for active play in elementary and junior high schools. By encouraging regular practice of personal leadership, active play, and teamwork, Kjartan enables children to create a school environment that is free from verbal and physical bullying, gossip, and ostracism. TL creates pathways for young people to take on leadership roles at recess, practice inclusivity toward their classmates, and create routinely positive experiences centered around physical exercise.
Kjartan is promoting opportunities for healthy living on the playground while designing a system such that schools can more easily reduce bullying. As a result of TL, students enjoy increased activity and inclusiveness by their peers, schools mediate fewer conflicts among students and focus on promoting activity at recess, teachers have more time to teach, and parents observe their children feeling increasingly secure at school. In addition, other schools in the municipality that also have shifted practices due to TL’s positive example. Since 2009, TL has expanded to one third of schools in Norway (more than 800 schools), 50 schools in Sweden, and several schools in Iceland. Kjartan’s immediate goal is to continue the expansion across Scandinavia and Europe.