The Texas Christian University (TCU) LiiNK Project is driven by research from the U.S. and other countries that shows that children who engage in more physical activity and play, as well as less academic content daily, will actually perform better academically than children who are sedentary, less creative and active, and pressured with more academic content daily.
The TCU LiiNK Project’s approach includes four primary components:
- Increasing the amount of physical activity via recess in schools
- Adding ethics and character development as a content area
- Assessing students differently (i.e., assessing with developmental tracking instead of grades twice a semester), including less standardized testing and more local control
- Restructuring the school day to feature less hours in the classroom for K-6 students and extra time in play and creativity for all students
Heading up the TCU LiiNK Project is Dr. Debbie Rhea, a professor and associate dean at the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences at TCU. In 2012, Dr. Rhea traveled to Finland for six weeks to study the country’s high-powered educational approach that had led to its students rising to the top of assessments in math, science, and reading.
In 2013, Dr. Rhea brought Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) at the Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, to the U.S. to meet with school districts across the state of Texas. He discussed the significant role that physical activity and character development play in Finnish schools.
Following this convocation, Dr. Rhea identified several local schools that would be interested in piloting a program with a 15-minute recess multiple times a day, and character development content several times per week.
The Project evolved with input from local school leadership, as well as collaboration with TCU’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, College of Education, and College of Science and Engineering.
In the fall of 2013, the TCU LiiNK Project launched in the Kindergarten and 1st grades of two private schools in Fort Worth: Starpoint School and Trinity Valley School. The schools integrated three to four recesses into the school day and implemented a character development curriculum called Positive Action, which emphasizes empathy, honesty, trust, self-respect, respect for others, self-esteem, and school connectedness (school pride and a passion for learning).
The Project measured the following areas through an observational tool called STROBE:
- Off-task behaviors, which include:
- Stationary (fidgeting)
- Moving (moving around the room)
- Low Tone (staring into space or head on desk)
- Verbal (talking to themselves or one other person)
LiiNK demonstrated early success in improving student behaviors, and continued to track positive results throughout the year. Highlights of the first-year results included:
- Both sexes across all grade levels (K-1) showed a significant improvement in appropriate behaviors vs. off-task behaviors. The overall off-task behavior rate was reduced from 50% to 30%.
- Attentional focus was improved from a 69% ability to focus to 91%.
- Academic performance in reading and math significantly increased.
- Anxiety in students lessened following implementation of the program.
Given these encouraging results, the LiiNK Project is expanding to Irving ISD and
Eagle-Mountain Saginaw ISD in the 2015-2016 school year, and including grade levels K-3 at Trinity Valley and K-8 at Starpoint.
The Miles Foundation is proud to support the LiiNK Project’s growing impact in schools across North Texas:
- In its first year at Trinity Valley and Starpoint, the program impacted 230 students and 12 teachers.
- For the upcoming 2015-16 school year, LiiNK has branched out to reach 1,280 studentsand 64 teachers.
- By the 2018-19 school year, the Project anticipates adding four more school districts, for a total impact of 4,780 students and 289 teachers.