Students tune in to education and turn off the TV

By: Stacey Gorski
   National TV Turn Off Week has inspired Noor Ul-Iman School to observe the event with a packed calendar of activities aimed at teaching students to find better ways to spend their time and energy than watching television.
   "Television is not that important," said Danna Hamdan, a sixth-grader at the school. "It takes your mind off more important things — like reading skills. It can actually make you do worse in school."
   Danna’s ideas were reinforced by the schedule of events that started Monday and will end Sunday. Students were challenged to not watch TV for the entire week.
   To help students meet the goal, the school has provided afternoon activities and other incentives.
   Activities planned for TV turn-off week included an Earth Day celebration on Monday when students and their families worked to clean up the area around the school. Other events throughout the week: a hobby day on Tuesday, a sports night on Wednesday, a skating party, a memorization contest, a fund-raising dinner and a soccer tournament.
   Preparations for the week began last Friday when students in kindergarten through fifth grade were asked to participate in a poster contest and students in grades six through eight composed essays for a separate contest.
   "The idea of the poster contest is to have them hang it over the television to remind them not to turn it on," said Janet Nazif, the school’s principal
   For the poster contest, students drew pictures of the types of activities they were planning in place of watching television. Prior to making their posters, students created a plan for each afternoon of the week.
   Second-grader Sarah Basit planned to attend several after-school activities, including the fund-raising dinner at the mosque that is coming up on Saturday and the skating party tomorrow.
   "We rented the skating park in Kendall Park for Friday," Ms. Nazif said.
   Others, like second-grader Taliah Khan, were already foreseeing the difficulty of the challenge.
   "We’re having a baby shower next weekend and all the kids will be watching TV," she said. "I guess I am going to try to get some of them to play outside with me."
   If she meets the challenge, there will be a reward.
   "Students who make it the whole week without watching TV will receive a small prize," Ms. Nazif said.
   Other prizes will be awarded to poster contest winners in each participating grade level. The essay contest winners were already determined.
   Sufia Azmat, one of the school’s English teachers, was responsible for the reading and judged the essays based on argument and content.
   For the contest, Ms. Azmat gave students in grades six through eight an information packet filled with statistics regarding television and who watches how much. Students were told to explain why people should "break free from TV" using the statistics.
   "I wrote about violence on TV and how it helps bad things to happen," said sixth-grader Ibraheem Catovic. "With all the beer commercials and disgusting other commercials, it is not very good."
   Ibraheem cited evidence from the information packet that suggests teens are undereducated because they spend too much time watching television."Only 25 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds know the Constitution was written in Philadelphia," he said.
   His essay earned him first place for sixth graders and first place in the school, while Danna won second place in the sixth grade. Other winners included seventh graders Nida Muntaz and Nasreen Mahmood, who won first and second in their class, respectively. Nida’s work was judged to be second best in the school and Nasreen’s third.
   While the students did their part, some of the events also sought to get parents involved.
   "We want to get the parents down here too and keep the families together while we keep the kids here after school so they won’t be tempted to turn on the TV at home," Ms. Janet said.
   Besides being involved in Monday’s clean-up effort and the pizza party afterwards, parents also were involved in the other activities, especially hobby day, an event that is so big it takes the coordination of three teachers, Surayya Catovic, Tubasim Ahmed and Abir Catovic. The teachers arranged for parents to come to school and show the students how to get involved in various arts and crafts and other hobbies.
   Throughout the day on Tuesday, students were given a tour of several tables that each had different hobbies on them: sketching, mosaics, candle making, fabric painting and cookie decorating to name a few of the 15 different activities. Then, they had about 15 minutes to choose and start one of the projects.
   "The students will be encouraged to stay after school to finish the project they begin during the day," Ms. Catovic said.
   The week’s packed schedule continued with a Qu’ran memorization contest that started Thursday when students were given age-appropriate passages to memorize. This contest will continue into next week, when students will be asked to recite the passages on May 2.
   "Our goal is to get as many kids as possible to participate in as many activities as possible and to continue the habit of turning off the TV," Ms. Nazif said.