One kindergarten student had never socialized. His mom said he spent all day in his bedroom on the computer and only came out to eat. When he entered school, he could not hold a pencil and he could not write. It would take him 15 minutes to zip his jacket. He would look at the teachers but he would not speak or ask for help. If they tried to go assist him, he would walk away. He now socializes, comprehends, solves problems, and speaks with the teachers. He is also reading FAR above level!
A first grade boy from one of the LiiNK schools came home one afternoon to hear his mom say it was time to do some spring cleaning. The little boy complied and found that he had accumulated three lunch boxes over the years. He asked his mom if he could take one of them to his new friend who loved the character on the front (Spider-man) for his birthday. The new friend didn’t have much and this boy thought it would make him very happy. His mom told him that it was fine to do that for the friend’s birthday. When he got home the next day, his mom asked him how the friend liked the lunch box. He told her that not only did the little boy love it, but he started crying and said that this was the best present he had received in a long time. The little boy said this made him so happy to see his friend enjoy receiving the gift. This story is a result of the Positive Action curriculum taught daily for 15 minutes – empathy is being taught and the children are feeling good as a result of giving to others.
One parent told the story about having her youngest daughter getting to participate in LiiNK, while her other two daughters did not have that opportunity. They were too old when LiiNK came to that school. She said the most interesting thing was that all three girls had the same first grade teacher. The youngest of the three daughters was much more creative, could problem solve much better than her older sisters, and wanted to engage in all kinds of outdoor activities when getting home from school, whereas her sisters wanted to come home each day and sit on the couch/search the phone. The most surprising piece was that all three are athletes. The older two wanted to be done with workouts and were not enthusiastic about getting better. The youngest was working hard every day to be better and was motivated by seeing her own skill level getting better. She didn’t compare herself to her peers. The parent said that she couldn’t believe how much different the youngest had become as a result of being part of LiiNK while the other two didn’t get that opportunity and were so much less motivated.
Three 3rd grade boys from a LiiNK school lived in the same neighborhood with another 3rd grade boy (same school) whose mother had chosen to move her son to a new charter school built right down the street. Every afternoon, the three LiiNK school boys came home and went outside to play. The other little boy would come out to play with them. Every day, about 20-30 minutes into their time outside, the one boy was told by the other three that they didn’t want him to play with them anymore because he was hurting them and playing too rough. After a couple of weeks of this same thing every day, the mom of the charter school boy came out one day to ask the other parents why her son wasn’t able to play with their children. They decided that the reason was the three boys had learned how to play appropriately while the other boy hadn’t learned how to manage his behaviors. The charter school mom decided to check him back into the LiiNK school for the next year. His socialization skills are much better now.
Behavior in the classroom is positively connected to LiiNK. One day just before the last recess of the day, it happened – the dreaded meltdown of one of my students. Since it was time to go outside, the class calmly walked out the doors and he trailed grudgingly behind us – clearly annoyed that the kids were more interested in playing than watching him have a tantrum. When we got outside, I had time to calm down and get a fresh perspective. Within 5 minutes, he dropped the anger and went to play. We don’t use recess as a consequence for discipline in LIINK (good thing for him!) He got to go and play which was just what he needed. When we came back inside, he was a different child. He told me he was sorry; I told him I was sorry, and we both had a great afternoon. In the past he would have sat in time out during recess and the situation would have escalated. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
A third grade LiiNK teacher told her story. She said that she wasn’t looking forward to starting the LiiNK project because she didn’t like the outdoors, it was going to take time away from her kids learning the material they needed to know, and she really felt that there would be more misbehaviors than they already had. She stated that day that she couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did she begin to walk her dog every morning and afternoon no matter the temperature, but she also began to feel better, she was happier, and her marriage was getting better. She started watching what she ate and making sure that she got outside for her own exercise every day. Her husband began to go exercise with her. By the end of the first year she was involved, she had lost 65 pounds. She said her students were so much better academically and happier as well. This just shows when teachers have time to reset and can put life in perspective with outdoor and healthy living, so much changes. This story was featured in D Magazine, 2019.
Twin grade K boys in a LiiNK school began their year very immature, very young for starting school, and very aggressive. One of them was still holding a stuffed animal and sucking his thumb, was very shy, would crawl around the classroom, and had multiple outbursts in class. He was aggressive at the outdoor play breaks and had to be separated quite often from many other children because of it. After a year, he was a totally different kid. By the end of his grade K year, he no longer carried the stuffed animal or sucked his thumb, he participated in the classroom activities/lessons and was much more on-task and engaged. He sat in his chair and stopped wiggling and fidgeting. He also began playing well with others on the playground. He was no longer pulled away from other students because of aggressiveness. He had a smile on his face and the other students enjoyed playing with him. The difference by the end of one year after having these four outdoor play breaks was night and day. The other twin had issues also when he started grade K. He was still wearing a diaper daily and doing very immature things as well as trying to hurt others. He also had a very similar transformation – no diapers by mid-year and was having a much better experience with others by the end of the year. They are both now in first grade and doing very well.
A grade K teacher recalled a little boy who had no coordination and could barely walk at the beginning of the year. He also was nonverbal. Mid-way through the year she said that he had improved in balance and coordination and was actually running! He also started talking which then helped him be more social with the other children. She said he changed more than she had ever seen of a child in her 42 years of teaching.
One set of parents were very protective of their little girl who had Spina Bifida. They didn’t let her do much outside activity, only indoor very mild activity in the gym. They worried that the physical movement/activity would speed up her disease. When LiiNK came to the school, the mother was very worried about the four unstructured outdoor play breaks daily because of the same concerns. The daughter was coming home every day happier than she had ever been since coming to school. She was telling her mom that she was able to do more physically and was able to play with her friends. Her friends weren’t feeling sorry for her anymore and treating her so fragile. Each day the little girl was getting stronger and moving more quickly on her walker. She wasn’t using her wheelchair anymore and was actually out in the field with her walker to play. She was able to maneuver back into the school quickly with no extra help from the teachers. She actually gained strength and muscle back from the deterioration that had taken place prior to LiiNK coming to the campus based on the mother and doctor’s assessments. Her mom has now done an interview with us raving about how well adjusted her little girl is three years later.
One of the EMS-ISD school LiiNK children had a disease that kept him in a wheelchair, but he was becoming more resilient and didn’t let the wheelchair stop him from playing all kinds of games with the other kids. The one that surprised us the most was watching him in his wheelchair play tag with a bunch of other kids on the playground.