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Published March 20, 2013, 11:35 PM

Activities key to kids’ success: Researcher says participation fuels emotional health

FARGO – While activities like dance, music and sports might be an important part of children’s happiness, sense of belonging and physical development, they’re also critical for children’s success in school and life.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

IF YOU GO

What: “Insights from Neuroscience and Developmental Science to Help Every Child Succeed” lecture

Where: North Dakota State University Memorial Union Century Theater

When: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday

Info: Free and open to the public

FARGO – While activities like dance, music and sports might be an important part of children’s happiness, sense of belonging and physical development, they’re also critical for children’s success in school and life.

That’s according to Adele Diamond, Canada Research Chair and Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

Diamond will talk about her theory from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday at North Dakota State University.

Diamond says activities that have been part of every culture throughout time, such as dance, music, storytelling and sports, are vital to development of creativity, self-control and flexibility – core skills critical for children’s academic success.

She makes her argument based on data in psychology and neuroscience and has applied for funding to do studies on the topic.

Executive functions like reasoning, creative problem-solving, self-control, discipline, and attention control are all critically important for school success, yet they are the first to suffer when people are sad or stressed, lonely, sleep-deprived, or not physically fit, Diamond says.

Making music, singing, dancing and playing sports address our physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs, Diamond says. She predicts they will be found to enhance a person’s executive functions.

Each part of a person, from the way they think, to their spiritual, social, emotional, and physical states, probably develops best when no part is neglected, she says.

Rebecca Woods, a researcher and assistant professor in the Human Development and Family Science department at NDSU says Diamond’s argument shows that when schools cut programs like art, music or athletics, they’re moving students away from where they ultimately want them to be.

“Those things are important for their general success,” she said.

Chris Hahn, a physical education teacher for the Central Cass School District in Casselton, N.D., says physical activity is imperative to our children and Diamond’s argument complements his own teaching philosophy.

“Research proves that consistent physical activity increases learning, enhances self-esteem, and improves health in children,” he said. “How to deal with adversity, how to set goals, how to work with people in a team environment, time management, and how to communicate are all skills fostered and developed in the sports environment.”

Rhanda Laqua, recreational director for TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics in Fargo says participation in activities like music and athletics lays the foundation for a well-rounded individual.

“It encourage participation versus observation, creativity, individuality and teamwork, problem solving, goal-setting, self-expression, compassion and empathy,” she said. “It helps to cultivate self-confidence and promotes a sense of accomplishment.”

Children who participate in such activities also learn how to accept failures, take risks and conquer fears, she said.

The lecture, called Insights from Neuroscience and Developmental Science to Help Every Child Succeed, is part of the Gertrude Weigum Hinsz Lecture Series and is hosted by NDSU’s Human Development and Family Science department.

It will be held in Memorial Union Century Theater followed by a reception in the Memorial Union Art Gallery.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526.

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