Three cheers to New Jersey state senator Richard Cody (D – Essex) who is about to introduce a bill that would direct the state Department of Education to study the potential health benefits of starting middle and high school students’ days later. Says Codey:
“Studies show that our current school start time system is flipped the wrong way. Middle and high school start times are too early and elementary and pre-k classes are too late.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an 8:30am school start time for adolescents:
“Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.”
This truth gets played out in my own household every morning. My 11 year old is easily up by 6 am and raring to go. Her fifth grade school day begins at 8am. My 14 year old high school freshman struggles to get out of bed for a 7:30 start time. Every morning for me as a parent begins as an argument with my teenage son as my gentle persuasion, at first, turns into panicked yelling as I try to get him up and out the door in time.
Bedtime is also a problem. In order for my son to get the 9 ½ hours of sleep that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, he needs to be asleep by 9 or 9:30pm. He is tired but unable to actually fall asleep. He is in bed by 9:30; he reads, listens to his music but by the time he falls asleep, it is quite late. He is exhausted every morning. And so begins the vicious cycle that lasts throughout the entire school year.
But then, thankfully, school ends and summer camp begins. My kids attend Appel Farm Arts Camp. They take classes in music, fine art, dance, theatre, and creative writing that begin at 9:30am. (The American Academy of Pediatrics would approve!) Not only are campers engaged in classes that stimulate their creativity and their minds, they occur at the exact, right time for maximum learning.
I always thought of this 9:30am camp start time as a nice break from the early start time of the school year. It’s summer after all. But now that I realize there is a physiological reason why start times should be later for adolescents, I am convinced that more schools should follow Appel Farm’s summertime example.
By: Melissa Tevere
Appel Farm Arts Camp Parent,
Appel Farm Arts and Music Center-On-Site Program Coordinator