Olivia Flaherty-Lovy, Reporter
January in Connecticut is famous in many ways; There’s the classic second snow fall of the year that’s shadowed by weeks of slush and mud, the struggle of waking up early to wipe frost off car windshields, the first week back after break where everyone tries to remember exactly what they learned for the past four months of school. But, January at NCHS is most well known for something most students try not to think about until absolutely necessary: midterms.
Every year, with exams around the corner, it’s not uncommon for the stress levels of both students and teachers to rise, and often times it seems as if the whole community is spiraling into a study frenzy. While it is certainly encouraged that students spend a lot of time preparing for exams, the pressure that can come with sleepless late nights studying and after-school help sessions often has negative consequences. According to Josie Davies, one of the three nurses at NCHS, midterm season often brings an influx of kids feeling sick, tired or overwhelmed. “As exams approach, we see a lot of fatigue, and fatigue can lead to stress, and that feeling of being overwhelmed comes a little more easily when you’re tired,” she said.
This year, many positive changes are being implemented during midterm week to minimize the stress levels of the NCHS community at large. One change is the lengthening of time in between midterms from forty-five minutes to a full hour. Though many will use this time to cram in all those formulas that were supposed to be memorized a week ago, for the first time ever, the school is enacting fun activities for students to come and alleviate stress before their next test. These activities range from card games to yoga to a badminton tournament and are designed to give students a bit of a break in between tests so that they can get as calm and collected as possible before their next assessment.
While this is new to New Canaan, it is not new to Fairfield County, as Staples High School had similar activities during their midterms last year. Vice Principal David Gusitsch, who worked at Staples High School last year, said that the student response to these activities in between midterms was overwhelmingly positive, and the teachers found there was a noticeable difference in the feel of the building during the week. Because of its success, providing activities during midterm week has been in conversation at NCHS since the beginning of the year. Based on the results of a survey sent to NCHS students at the beginning of January, the activities were decided and organized. The activities will vary from day to day and will be hosted by different teachers, depending on the activity. However, participation is not mandatory, and studying during the time between exams is always an option. In addition, this year the New Canaan YMCA is opening its Wellness Center for members and non-members to come and prepare for exams. This space will be open to students from 6 to 11:30 from Monday to Thursday, January 15 to January 18th as well as on the 21st and 22nd.
While studying is always encouraged, one of the most interesting aspects of these activities being offered in between exams this year is that they may be beneficial towards the performance of students on their exams. According to Mr. Gusitsch, “There’s a lot of science that backs up the brain-body connection. From a physiological standpoint, having an opportunity for students to move before their assessments does activate areas of the brain that would be helpful for assessments.”
It is scientifically proven, in fact, that physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, which greatly improves the chances of a student performing well on exams. According to a study published by the University of Edinburgh, “Almost immediately after engaging in physical activity, we are better able to concentrate on tasks, which can enhance learning.” In midterms and other exams, the ability to properly concentrate can be a huge asset to the student and has been proven to improve performance on exams. In addition, according to Heidi Godman of the Harvard Health Letter, “Exercise helps memory and thinking in both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors.” Because of this, students are encouraged to spend the hour in between exams participating in some of these activities instead of simply stressing and studying unnecessary information for the hour. “We have a lot of people pitching in to help out and make a successful kickoff and we feel that the offerings we have are things that students will not only enjoy but benefit from and we’re hopeful that students will be open minded to give it a try, and check out the things that we’re thinking will help them throughout the week,” said Mr. Gusitsch.