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Still Middle School students unplug

By the Numbers

110 million

The number of households with a television set in 2006, compared with 76 million households in 1980.


Percent of all households with a television set in 2005, which is unchanged since 1999.


The average number of television sets per home in 2005. In 1980, that number was 1.7.

Source: Table 1099, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Kelley Powell didn’t gain popularity when she suggested her classmates at Still Middle School give up their cell phones, video games and computers. But after the weeklong experiment, the sixth-grader learned her suggestion received high marks from her peers as well as their families.

“Everyone was mad at me at first,” Powell laughed, “but I think they got a lot out of it. They spent a lot more time with family, and got a lot more homework done because they didn’t watch TV or play video games after school. It was a good learning experience.”

Language arts teacher Jennifer Coombs was teaching a unit of study on the “human condition” as part of the Project Arrow curriculum. She said the students determined that the environment, economy, media, disease and technology all influence the human condition.

“It is what we call a ‘teachable moment,’” Coombs said. “Kelley e-mailed me with the suggestion that we go technology-free for a week. I asked the rest of the kids what they thought, and it sparked a great deal of enthusiasm. Over 90 percent of my students opted to take part in this.”

Powell said going without technology would allow the class to examine its effect on the human condition: good or bad. ­

The group realized they couldn’t avoid all technology, so Coombs set the calendar back to 1983 — the year she was a sixth-grader.

“I set parameters for the kids — they could use the same technology that I had when I was their age in 1983,” Coombs said. “At that moment, they lost their cell phones and texting, the mouse for their computers and internet, remote controls, and I even threw cable television in there. At that time, not all families, including mine, had gotten cable yet. They also lost video games unless they were able to produce Atari, which one student was able to do.”

About 75 percent of Coombs class said they regularly use cell phones, and every student said they had some type of video gaming device. The group approached the low-tech week with enthusiasm and trepidation.

“I use the computer, TV and my iPod a lot,” said Kavya Anjur, 11. “At first I thought it would be hard to give up the technology that I use so often, but it ended up being a good experience for me.”

Anjur said the one-week experiment inspired her to do things she hadn’t done in awhile.

“This experience made me realize how much time I waste playing games on the computer and watching TV instead of doing fun things that I enjoy,” said the 11-year-old. “I was able to spend more time with my family and get back to my old hobbies like reading and drawing.”

Classmate Nolan Fritz shared the sentiment.

“I learned there are so many other things to do besides sitting in front of a glowing screen,” Fritz said. “It turns out I had a bunch of other ideas of fun things to do. I would go to my friend’s house to play hockey, and played football with my little brothers in the basement. A lot of people, I admit myself (included), use an awful lot of technology and then just get caught up in all of it.”

By the end of the week, Coombs said her students appreciated being technology-free, and so did their families.

“I was blown away by responses that I got from both parents and kids about how much they appreciated the family time that was reintroduced in the past five days,” Coombs said. “It’s really been heart-warming to hear about what an impact this has had beyond the classroom.”

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