Fact vs opinion article

Is Summer Break Necessary?

For many kids, summer break is the best time of the year. They are free from classes. They are free from waking up to an alarm clock. And they are free from homework. An old rhyme says, “No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers' dirty looks!”

But is summer break good for students? Would it be better if school went all year?

Many schools in the United States have 180 days of school. Then they have a long summer break. This schedule was first used in the early 1900's. Before that, the school calendar was much different. The largest cities used to have 240-260 days of school each year. There were four quarters. One quarter was each season of the year. They had short breaks between each. But children were not required to go to school. Many students only came to school part of the year. They spent less time in class than students today.

Back then doctors thought too much time in school could harm a child's health. They believed children were physically and mentally weak. They didn't think kids should spend so much time in a classroom.

By 1900, the school year had been shortened by sixty days. They got rid of the summer quarter. Summer became the break time for several reasons. The heat of the summer made school buildings too hot. Some people thought that being in hot, crowded places spread disease. Also, rich families took vacations to get away from the summer heat. Other families were starting to do the same.

School in areas away from the cities was different. Children there spent two or three months of school in the winter. Then they spent two or three more months in the summer. In the spring and fall, they worked on their farms. The population grew. The distance between the cities and the rural areas got smaller. Some worried that the rural students weren't getting enough time in the classroom. They made the school year longer. They switched to a summer break. They wanted to be more like the city schools.

One hundred years have passed. For many schools the schedule hasn't changed. We know more about how children learn. We know that students are not too weak. They are able to attend school year round. Air conditioning helps. It lets people live and work even in the hottest parts of the country.

So why do students in the USA still get a summer break?

Traditions are hard to change. Summer break is a time for family vacations and activities. Families do things that they don't have time for during the school year. Summer break is time for students to take extra classes to get ahead. They may also retake classes they struggled with before. Summer is a chance to get a part- time job to earn money. Summer gives students time to attend a camp. It's time to focus on something like music or sports.

Schools benefit from the summer break too. During summer, schools save money. They don't have to provide transportation. They don't have to provide meals and other services. Teachers use the summer break to take classes. These classes are required for their school jobs. Some may get another job to make more money.

Bu summer break also causes problems for students. Students' scores on tests often drop over the summer. Many teachers spend time every year reviewing material from last year. Is this class time being wasted? Would students learn and remember better without the long summer break?

Schools in many other countries have a longer school day. They also have a longer school year. In Australia, students attend school 200 days a year. They have four quarters. There are short breaks between each. In China, students start school from early September. They end in mid-July. Their school day starts at 7:30am. It ends at 5pm. They have a two hour break for lunch. The school year in Japan starts in April. It ends the next March. Their schedule is divided into three terms. There are short breaks between each. Japanese students are in school for 243 days a year.

Officials worry about less time in school for U.S. students. They think this means that U.S. students learn less than those in other countries. Students in the U.S. have lower test

scores in math and science than students in many Asian countries. In those countries students are in school longer during the day. They are also in school for more days each year.

Some believe that more time in school won't help. They believe that the current schedule should be changed. They want time used better. They feel less time should be spent in classes like art and music. More time should be spent in math and science. This would give students the extra instruction they need. But it wouldn't add days to the school year. Others believe that elective classes are necessary. These classes give students a well-rounded education. They give the students more interest in school. Activities such as band and choir increase school attendance. They decrease the drop-out rate.

Some schools are trying different kinds of schedules. Some schools are using an extended year calendar. They spread the school days out throughout the year. They have bigger breaks between each quarter and a shorter summer. Other schools are trying schedules that have a longer school year. But they have half days of school once or twice a week. This gives students time for jobs. It gives them time for sports and other activities.

So, is summer break necessary? The answer depends on who you ask.


Is Summer Break Necessary (1)

Page 2 of 2


Article #2

Eat Your Greens

How many vegetables did you eat yesterday? In the past week? This month?

Do you eat vegetables? Do you exercise?

There is a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It describes what kinds of choices teenagers are making. They conducted a survey about eating healthy foods and getting exercise. 2,100 teenagers in our state took the survey.

The report says that teens in our state are not as overweight or obese as teens around the country. But teens here don't get as much exercise as others. They do get more physical education at school than many others.

State Country
Overweight 12% 16%
Obese 9% 12%
Physically active

(60 minutes per day) 72% 82%
Did not attend

(P.E.) classes 76% 67%


Health officials say a person should start eating healthy food at a young age. Then they are more likely to make healthy choices as they get older. “It's especially important to get children involved in the whole process. They need to know about growing food. They need to cook it. They need to eat it,” says dietician Anne Roberts. “We want students to think about where their food comes from. They should think about what they are putting into their bodies.”

George Davis is a high school science teacher. He says, “The students in my horticulture class grow vegetables in a small greenhouse garden in the fall and spring. When the vegetables are ready, we take them to the elementary school to share.” The high school students tell the younger kids how the vegetables are grown. They encourage them to try all the different kinds. We want them to try things they've never had before. They should try vegetables that they think they don't like. “We invite the younger students to come visit our garden,” says Mr. Davis. “We want to get the young kids excited about growing and eating healthy foods.

These students get together with the home economics students twice a year. They use the fresh vegetables to make jars of salsa and marinara sauce to sell. They raise money for field trips and garden supplies.

How many vegetables are the teenagers eating each day?

“I like lots of vegetables,” says 15-year-old Marissa Yamamoto. “I'll eat them if someone serves them to me. But I don't go looking for them.” She thinks she ate two servings of vegetables each day last week.

The USDA recommends five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

The survey said that only 18% of teenagers in the state eat that many. Nationwide, 22% reported eating at least five servings each day.

Consider these questions from the survey:

Have you eaten any carrots in the past seven days? 55% of students in this state said “yes.”

Have you eaten a salad in the past seven days? 68% said “yes.”

Have you eaten a potato in the past seven days? (French fries and other fried potatoes don't count!) 77% of the teenagers said “yes.”

Have you eaten vegetables at all? 13% of the students said they hadn't eaten a single vegetable in the past week.

Why eat vegetables at all? “Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber that the body needs,” said Anne Roberts. “The color of the vegetable tells us what nutrients are in it.”

Red fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, watermelon and strawberries. They are full of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant. It helps to fight heart disease and some cancers.

Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits include carrots and sweet potatoes. They include apricots, oranges and pineapple. These foods are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system. It may help fend off colds and flu. They contain folate, a B vitamin. This

reduces heart disease. Many of these foods, including corn and pears, are also high in fiber. Fiber helps you feel full longer. It helps your digestive system work more smoothly.

Green vegetables include spinach, broccoli and cabbage. They are also high in antioxidants and many other nutrients. They help your eyesight by strengthening the retina in your eyes. They may reduce cancer. They are also high in fiber.

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables include eggplant and blueberries. They are rich sources of antioxidants and fiber. They may help your body fight harmful chemicals and pollutants.

Anne Roberts suggests eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. “Eat at least one food from each color group. This will make sure that you get at least five servings, as recommended. You will get a wide range of the nutrients. This will help you be healthy and strong. You look better and have more energy.”

There are many other good things about eating healthy food. “Proper nutrition increases school attendance. It helps students pay attention in class. It improves memory. It helps students do better in school.”

School districts across the state are serving healthier foods. Many schools are taking candy and soda out of the vending machines.

“But there's lots of good food - delicious food - for the kids,” says Mr. Davis. “Next week, the high school cafeteria is serving pizza. The pizza sauce is made from tomatoes grown in our very own garden! It doesn't get much better than that.”

Eat Your Greens (1)

Page 2 of 2