Kid Governor wants more outside time for students

  • Concord resident and fifth grader at Sant Bani School, Suzy Brand, was sworn in as the 2020 New Hampshire’™s Kid Governor at State House on Jan. 17. The Sant Bani School student was elected on her platform of children’™s health and more time outdoors during school. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord resident and fifth grader at Sant Bani School Suzy Brand was sworn in as the 2020 New Hampshire’s Kid Governor at the New Hampshire State House on Friday, January 17th. The Sant Bani School student was elected on her platform of children’s health and more time outdoors during the school day. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord resident and fifth grader at Sant Bani School Suzy Brand was sworn in as the 2020 New Hampshire’s Kid Governor at the New Hampshire State House on Friday, January 17th. The Sant Bani School student was elected on her platform of children’s health and more time outdoors during the school day. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fifth graders Kasey Fitzgerald of Plaistow, Ameya Kharade of Nashua, Patrick Lavoie of Stoddard, J.T. Pourby of Andover, and Calvin Sarnie of Nashua are sworn in as the 2020 New Hampshire’s Kid Executive Councilors by Kid Governor Suzy Brand of Concord. Courtesy of Martha Madsen

Monitor staff
Published: 2/3/2020 8:50:09 AM

Suzy Brand knows that there are just some things that can’t be learned sitting at a desk in a classroom.

Lessons the Concord fifth-grader has learned exploring the outdoors through playing with friends, skiing at Gunstock with her family and running on her school’s cross country team have been just as valuable to Brand as the lessons she’s learned studying subjects like math, English and social studies, she said.

“There are so many benefits to being outdoors. It can improve self-esteem, mental and behavioral health, make kids stronger physically, and can even help kids to focus and do better in school,” she said, during her inaugural address at the State House on Friday. “The problem is, most kids don’t have the opportunity to be outdoors in our current schools.”

Brand was elected the state’s second-ever “Kid Governor” through the  New Hampshire Institute for Civics Education program.

She was voted Kid Governor by 1,040 other fifth graders in the state who spent the year learning about the branches of New Hampshire government as identified the state’s constitution, the history of voting rights and the qualities of a good leader through the state Institute for Civics Education. 

Each kid who ran on an issue important to them. Brand, who attends Sant Bani School in Sanbornton, ran her campaign on children’s health and more time outdoors.

Brand has been doing research about how other states approach outdoor play in school, and found that in Utah, recess now counts as instructional time. The Utah State Board of Education just changed the rules earlier this month.

Every state has a certain number of instructional hours – meaning hours spent learning in a classroom. Public and private schools are required to maintain a calendar of with at least 945 hours of instruction for elementary schools and 990 hours of instruction for middle and high schools, according to the state Department of Education.

In New Hampshire, recess is not included as instructional time and so outdoor time is often limited or cut to make way for classroom learning, Brand said. This has an effect on kids’ interpersonal skills and their chance to explore their creativity and grow, she said.

Now, she hopes to work with the Legislature to pass a bill that will require students to be able to spend one to two hours outdoors daily. She said she knows it might be a tough feat for some schools, but hope they can implement at least marginal changes to increase time students spend outdoors.

“Maybe just half an hour at the least, trying to get 40 minutes to two hours, depending on how much time the school has between academics,” she said.

During her term as Kid Governor, she also plans to gather donations for winter gear to supply to schools that kids can use to go outdoors and go on field trips in schools and plans to create a blog to educate her fellow students about why spending time outdoors is important. 

On Friday, Brand had to give a speech in front of New Hampshire’s governor, Chris Sununu, and members of the state Legislature.

She said a group of her friends from Concord, her fifth grade class from Sant Bani School, her parents, cousin and aunt all came to support her.

“I was a little bit nervous, but mostly I was really excited to actually become the kid governor because then I can actually start doing what I said I was going to do,” she said.

It was at the State House that Brand was introduced to her executive council, a group of finalists who were her runner-ups in the race for Kid Governor.

“They were all really nice – I’m excited to be able to work with people who can look at things from different points of view and I also look forward to helping them, because all of their campaigns are really important and are things that would be cool to help out with and actually learn more about it, too,” she said. 

Members of the executive council ran on issues like college and career awareness, pollinator loss, bullying and underage tobacco use.

More than 450 students in six New Hampshire schools participated in the kid governor program last year, selecting Lola Giannelli, of Nashua, as their first Kid Governor. She spent the last year promoting efforts to reduce animal abuse.


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