Tag Archive for 'Scuola'

Autism, isolation, sense of belonging and school

Yesterday, the World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated, a disorder that affects many children and future adults, still constituting a factor of poor integration and inclusion in the social environment, not to mention that inclusion in the workforce is still marginal. Overall, there are still many negative news, and families experience daily the responsibility of their children’s development with limited support from the national healthcare system and the school. On a positive note, there is a network of associations often founded by parents with autistic children that respond to some of their many needs, ranging from therapeutic paths to sports programs and others.

In our small way, we at the Integrated Soccer Academy also participate in providing resources to these young people and their families. Our aim, through teaching soccer, is to reduce loneliness by building a community among parents and sports, and to promote a sense of belonging through soccer: This happens in various ways, including the “Classmates” project, which involves inviting some classmates to play soccer together on certain days of the school year. These are days of sports and celebration in which teachers also participate, and during this activity, young people with autism present themselves to others in a different, more capable way, and more satisfying for them compared to what is shown in school life.

We are aware that these experiences should be more frequent, but in any case, they highlight the qualities and learning of young people with autism that teachers and classmates do not see during school hours.

These activities, properly organized, could also be carried out in schools where they are usually absent. These experiences indicate the possible paths that could be taken to achieve inclusion in schools in practice. Regarding sports, sports clubs like ours show how this could happen. The School, in Italy, as a whole is not ready to change to make experiences like this “Classmates” project daily, so inclusion continues to be dependent on the goodwill of teachers and school administrators.

At school: are grades useful?

I am not involved in schooling, but the other day I listened to a debate on the radio that focused on grades – yes versus no – and the issue of learning and its assessment.

Working in sports, particularly with high school students, we face similar questions to those of teachers: how to teach and evaluate learning and how to consider athletic performance results, which are equivalent to school grades.

We know that humans want to feel autonomous, self-determined, and competent. Therefore, whether it’s sports, academics, or other areas like the arts, the approach should aim to meet these needs through suitable teaching methods tailored to the characteristics of the activities involved.

In the 21st century, it’s not about engaging in ideological wars but about using what science tells us on these matters and developing learning programs based on that knowledge. Even grading in this context can be one of the assessment methods to identify a student’s knowledge and performance, similar to rankings in sports. In sports, the outcome is recognized as a measure of how well one has performed, including errors, and the focus for the next performance is on reducing those errors.

It’s clear that this can only happen if coaches and teachers also see themselves as responsible for their students’ performances, following a rule where I teach/train you to improve, and you commit to learning. Without this alliance, everyone goes their separate ways. Therefore, in my opinion, we need an analytical evaluation that specifically identifies young people’s skills, followed by evaluation moments like sports competitions and school tests that provide an overall assessment. I see no contradiction between these evaluations; they should always go hand in hand as foundations for continuous improvement.

Chiellini: the athletes should study

“The study opens the mind, and in Los Angeles, I realized how educational a stay here can be, where study and sports play the same game” (Giorgio Chiellini). Perhaps these statements from a champion will help begin to change the mindset that an athlete cannot dedicate time to studying.

In our country, the situation is serious because there are families who are unaware of the harm it causes their children to attend educational institutions where they study very little and promotion is a certain outcome. It is also true that the public school system often does little to understand the needs of these young individuals involved in sports. The merging of these two mindsets, that of the school and families, leads to the economic success of private schools that offer paid, facilitated pathways.

School should also be about social education, learning to live alongside others leading different lives. Missing this opportunity results in social deprivation and a reduced ability to engage with others while maintaining one’s own perspective.

If young athletes do not attend what I would call qualified schools, who will teach them how to use social media and their smartphones? Perhaps their parents if they are fortunate. Coaches certainly do not have the time to deal with these situations, and even if they did, are they themselves victims of these technologies?

Once again, football has shown us what can happen when these pathways are disrupted. However, the issue is much broader and concerns the ability to recognize and share discomfort, having people around who understand and can guide toward paths of change.

Schools and families should, therefore, be at the center of youth education, but it seems to me that teachers and parents often are not in a position to fulfill this role. So, who can help them?

How to reduce the school drop-out

Allen, KA., Jamshidi, N., Berger, E. et al. Impact of School-Based Interventions for Building School Belonging in Adolescence: a Systematic ReviewEduc Psychol Rev 34, 229–257 (2022).

A student’s sense of school belonging is critical to school success, yet internationally, a large proportion of secondary students do not feel that they belong to their school. However, little is understood about how schools can address this issue, nor what evidence-based interventions are available to increase belonging among secondary school students.

The aim of this study is to identify and critically review the evidence on school-based interventions that increase a sense of school belonging in adolescents. Seven electronic databases and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched from 1999 to February 2021 using ‘school belonging’ and ‘intervention’ amongst the key search terms. A total of 22 controlled trials were identified with 14 studies reporting effective school-based interventions for enhancing a sense of adolescent school belonging.

Successful interventions targeted students’ strengths and promoted positive interactions between students and between school staff and students.

Overall, this review found a paucity of interventions that intentionally aimed to develop adolescent school belonging. Inconsistencies in terminology use and definitions describing school belonging were identified even when similar measurement tools were utilised. Findings of this review have important practice implications and provide information to support schools to select evidence-based interventions to improve students’ sense of school belonging.

How computer job increases the sedentariness

Shirin Panahi and Angelo Tremblay, 2018, Sedentariness and Health: Is Sedentary Behavior More Than Just Physical Inactivity? Front. Public Health, 10 September 2018     

The World Health Organization recommends that adults aged 18 or older participate in at least 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week or the equivalent of 30 min of daily activity . Currently, just over 15% of Canadian adults are meeting these guidelines.

The problems of sedentariness may not only be attributed to a lack of movement, but also to the stimulation provided by replacing activities.

In addition to the changes in human activity, globalization and technological changes have favored a progressive switch from physically demanding tasks to knowledge-based work or mental activity soliciting an enhanced cognitive demand. Screen-based leisure activities (e.g., television watching, video games, and internet use) and screen-based work activities (e.g., computer use for work purposes) have often been considered together while they may not trigger the same stress response and/or use of substrate. Furthermore, from a physiological perspective, the biological requirements and effects of physical and cognitive work are not the same. Mental work, for instance, may significantly increase glycemic instability (i.e., wide fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations) leading to an increase in the desire to eat and thus, higher energy intakes.

Thus, the problems of sedentariness may not only be attributed to a lack of movement, but also to the stimulation provided by replacing activities. In a context where there is exposure to cognitive work, novel strategies to increase physical activity and improve energy balance regulation are needed.


As has been previously suggested, from a physiological perspective, the biological requirements of physical and mental work are different because knowledge-based work is a type of activity that relies on the brain which utilizes glucose for the metabolism of energy compared to physical activity which uses skeletal muscle and relies mostly on fat metabolism, depending on the type of physical activity.

However potential solutions that consider approaches to counteracting the negative impact of mental work may be possible with the readjustment of daily physical activity schedules.

In the context of a school or work environment, recent data has suggested that combining mental and physical work (e.g., active pauses/meetings), may be one strategy to reduce sedentary time in a context where potential neurogenic stress may be high.

An acute bout of interval exercise after mental work was shown to decrease food consumption compared with a non-exercise condition suggesting that it may be used as an approach to offset positive energy balance induced by mental tasks.

In the workplace, sit-stand desks were found to be effective in decreasing workplace sedentary behavior in office workers with abdominal obesity, with no change in sedentary behavior or physical activity outside of work hours; however, these changes did not alter markers of cardiometabolic risk in these individuals. Furthermore, the use of sit-stand desks in sedentary office workers was also associated an overall sense of well-being and energy, decreased fatigue, and reduction in appetite, food intake and lower self-perceived levels of hunger.

10 reasons to increase the young physical activity

Let’s remember why exercise is essential for the young development.

  1. It improves the cardiovascular system, so aerobic activity and its ability to circulate blood and oxygen has been used to explain improvements in brain function and cognition (increased capillary growth).
  2. Increased neural network due to greater diffusion of neurotransmitters.
  3. Growth of new neurons in areas of the hippocampus that promote learning and memory.
  4. In young people the greater the demands of school performance, the greater the need for breaks.
  5. Free, unstructured play reduces cognitive interference, promoting learning. More evident in children than in adolescents and adults (cognitive immaturity hypothesis).
  6. Affective relationships and collaboration with peers support learning and inhibit antisocial behavior.
  7. Gradual development of “executive skills” (response inhibition, memory, and decision-making flexibility).
  8. The amount of time children are involved in motor activity and sports is proportional to their school performance; the more time the greater the educational benefits for children and adolescents.
  9. An important consideration for school administrators is the impact of motor activity programs on academic achievement. Schools with more minutes of physical activity have higher levels of academic achievement.
  10. A program called “system-fit” that integrates age-appropriate physical activity is an opportunity to help children who can be defined as kinesthetic-student and children who do not adjust well to the school environment.


Sport and school performance

Katherine B. Owen et al., (2021). Sport Participation and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise

Introduction: Physical activity can improve academic performance; however, much less is known about the specific association between sport participation and academic performance and this evidence has not been synthesised. Our aim was to systematically review and combine via meta-analyses evidence of the association between sport participation and academic performance in children and adolescents.

Methods: We conducted searches of five electronic databases using sport and academic performance related terms. We combined evidence from eligible studies using a structural equation modelling approach to multilevel meta-analysis.

Results: From 115 eligible studies, most of which had a high risk of bias (k = 87), we meta-analysed 298 effect sizes. Overall, sport participation had a small positive effect on academic performance (d = 0.26, 95% CIs 0.09, 0.42). Moderator analyses indicated that sports participation was most beneficial for academic performance when it was at a moderate dose (i.e., 1-2 hours per week), compared to no sport or a high dose of sport (3+ hours per week).

Conclusion: Sports participation during school hours was more beneficial for academic performance compared to sport participation outside of school hours. Based on mostly low-quality studies, we found some evidence that sport could positively impact academic performance in children and adolescents. It appears that sport participation of a moderate dose and at school could be used to promote academic performance. However, if this field were to inform policy, high-quality studies are needed that provide insight into the effect of dose and sport characteristics on academic performance.

Our responsibility as adults toward the young athletes

At the beginning of this new century, the concept that sport can become a valid and viable professional mainstream for young people has taken hold. Years ago, pursuing a career as an athlete was an option little considered by families, so young people continued to attend the schools in which they were enrolled until the end of their studies. This was the Italian situation characterized by a total disconnection between the school Institution and the sporting world, the latter generally opposed by teachers. Families, on the other hand, rarely asked themselves the question about the sporting future of their children before they reached adulthood. Today the situation has changed. Sports organizations press for promising athletes to train many hours a week, families think that a sports career is an opportunity like any other, sometimes even the best and easiest to pursue, and young people are caught between these two demands and at the same time they too are tuning in to this opportunity. Moreover, teaching in Italian schools is rather backward and little different from how it was done 100 years ago and, therefore, adolescents in general do not find an environment oriented towards their development as a person and the acquisition of the skills characteristic of their curriculum.

Certainly, sport appears to be more fun, exciting and varied, even if daily practice does not correspond to this stereotype, but in my opinion the sporting environment in which young talents enter is usually stimulating, and guided by coaches who are more interested in the development of the person and the athlete. We are talking about young people who train at least 30 hours a week for 10 months. An amount of time, however, not different from that of students who want to achieve equally positive results at school.

The question that no one asks is not about the notions to be learned, but about understanding to what extent dropping out of school or schooling in private schools where the study of the program is totally conditioned by the sports activity represents a limit to the development of these young athletes. To date, each family and each sports organization pursues a path and there are no guidelines developed by the Ministry of Education and those who govern the sport. In this choice, families are left without guidance and the federations choose the paths that can be taken according to the needs of their sport. A discussion would be helpful as well as a better understanding of other countries’ models.

Basket-Mathematics school program

New study with 756 first through fifth graders demonstrates that a six-week mashup of hoops and math has a positive effect on their desire to learn more, provides them with an experience of increased self-determination and grows math confidence among youth. The Basketball Mathematics study was conducted at five Danish primary and elementary schools by researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.


In recent decades, there has been a considerable amount of attention paid to explore different approaches to stimulate children’s learning. Especially, there has been a focus on how physical activity, separated from the learning activities, can improve children’s cognitive performance and learning. Conversely, there has been less of a focus aimed at the potential of integrating physical activity into the learning activities. The main purpose of this study therefore was to develop a learning activity that integrates  and mathematics and examine how it might affect children’s motivation in mathematics.

Increased motivation, self-determination and mastery

Seven-hundred fifty-six children from 40 different classes at Copenhagen area schools participated in the project, where about half of the them—once a week for six weeks—had Basketball Mathematics during gym class, while the other half played basketball without mathematics.

“During classes with Basketball Mathematics, the children had to collect numbers and perform calculations associated with various basketball exercises. An example could be counting how many times they could sink a basket from three meters away vs. at a one-meter distance, and subsequently adding up the numbers. Both the math and basketball elements could be adjusted to suit the children’s levels, as well as adjusting for whether it was addition, multiplication or some other function that needed to be practiced,” explains Linn Damsgaard, who is writing her Ph.D. thesis on the connection between learning and physical activity at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

The results demonstrate that children’s motivation for math integrated with basketball is 16% higher com-pared to classroom math learning. Children also experienced a 14% increase in self-determination compared with classroom teaching, while Basketball Mathematics increases mastery by 6% compared versus classroom-based mathematics instruction. Furthermore, the study shows that Basketball Mathematics can maintain children’s motivation for mathematics over a six-week period, while the motivation of the control group decreases significantly.

“It is widely acknowledged that youth motivation for schoolwork decreases as the  year progresses. Therefore, it is quite interesting that we don’t see any decrease in motivation when kids take part in Basketball Mathematics. While we can’t explain our results with certainty, it could be that Basketball Mathematics endows children with a sense of ownership of their calculations and helps them clarify and concretize abstract concepts, which in turn increases their  to learn mathematics through Basketball Mathematics,” says Ph.D. student Linn Damsgaard

Active math on the school schedule

Associate Professor Jacob Wienecke of UCPH’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, who supervised the study, says that other studies have proved the benefits of movement and physical activity on children’s academic learning. He expects for the results of Basketball Mathematics on  and academic performance to be published soon:

“We are currently investigating whether the Basketball Mathematics model can strengthen youth performance in . Once we have the final results, we hope that they will inspire school teachers and principals to prioritize more  and movement in these subjects,” says Jacob Wienecke, who concludes:

“Eventually, we hope to succeed in having these tools built into the school system and the teacher’s education. The aim is that schools in the future will include “Active English” and “Active Mathematics” in the weekly schedule as subjects where physical education and subject-learning instructors collaborate to integrate this type of instruction with the normally more sedentary classwork.”

(Source: phys.org)