At this new charter school the students play seasonal sports (as well as weight training, cardio, yoga and core strengthening) for the first three hours each day! The goal of this very unique high school is to use sports as an academic-engagement tool to drag the highest of the high-risk students back from the precipice of scholastic failure. The school week is six days long, and all students participate in a mandatory summer program.
Urban Dove Team Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant is open to students who are “over-age and under-credited.” (In New York City, there are nearly 140,000 young people between the ages of 15-21 who have either dropped out of high school or are lacking the course credits necessary for graduation.) This charter school has three special ed teachers and a social worker, but the critical role is played by the coaches. Students are divided into “teams”, but their coaches also play the role of adult mentors who travel with the teams through every class during the entire school day, starting with a homework period (all “homework” is done in the morning with the team), and who motivate, guide, and counsel the students. Coaches promote communication, teamwork, and leadership to help improve students’ confidence and self-esteem, ability to focus, managing of emotions, and consideration of others.
The school’s founder, Jai Nanda, coached basketball in an urban school in the 1990s and noticed that the boys on his team did much better academically during the basketball season and would often drop out completely when the season ended. Jai began to understand the academic and social power of sports to energize, engage, and educate, which eventually led to this academically successful charter school which uses sports to provide a structured, disciplined environment. Jai has worked with young people his entire life, and has dedicated his career to improving and enriching their lives.
Research has long shown the health and social benefits of physical activity for young people, but there are growing studies showing that students can better focus their attention and perform better on academic tests after exercise. Especially morning sports increases kids’ school engagement and cuts way down on truancy.
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