Instrument lessons–check. Sports practice–check. SAT tutoring–check. Community service–check. STEM activities–check. Part-time job–check. Religious education–check. Play rehearsal–check. Homework–check. Down time…say what? There’s no time left.

Today’s achievement culture has produced a generation of over-scheduled children who look outstanding on paper, but it’s coming at a very high price. According to Michael J. Hynes, E.D., the superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District (Long Island, NY), children today “are more anxious, depressed and suicidal than any previous generation.”

A recent NPR Education Series broadcast revealed that “up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.”

It’s the kind of statistic that gives one pause–and it’s certainly not something we parents anticipate as a possibility for our children.

Wilton Youth Council’s Free Play Matters Task Force has invited Hynes to visit Wilton on Tuesday, Nov. 27, to discuss societal trends in education, how we measure success, the importance of more free play and recess, and the risks of over-scheduling.

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Hynes is renowned for placing greater significance on the physical, emotional, academic, and social (PEAS) growth of kids instead of their standardized test scores. Students in his district enjoy 40 minutes for lunch and 40 minutes of recess. Interestingly enough, this increase in downtime led to a decrease in the problems that plagued his schools.

“Undesirable behaviors decreased by at least 50%, attendance went up, and perhaps the most important metric of all, our children were smiling and clearly happy to be at school,” Hynes reports.

Hynes believes more recess helps make kids more ready to learn, inside and outside of the classroom. “Children today are so scheduled and so supervised, that they need some free time to learn how to get along with others, to think things through, and to think for themselves.”

Having recently visited Finland, an education system that consistently receives top marks from UNICEF, the OECD, and the World Economic Forum, Hynes will also share what he learned about the Finnish philosophy and approach to education during his presentation, The Importance of Student Well-Being and Play in Schools, which will take place tomorrow, in the Clune Center at Wilton High School from 10-11:30 a.m..

Admission is free, but registration is recommended. To register, please visit the event registration page.

Questions may be directed to Vanessa Elias, Wilton Youth Council President at via email.

GOOD Morning Wilton editor Heather Borden Herve had a chance to talk with Dr. Michael Hynes about what Wilton parents can look forward to hearing at his upcoming presentation. Take a listen:

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