Coni, the Italian National Olympic Committee-USA presents: ”What does it take for a child to grow healthy in body and mind?” A symposium

Oct 13, 2016 774

A psycho-education scientist and a Montessori educator address the question of the fundamental importance of free movement and organized extracurricular sport activity for the cognitive development and well being of the child in a symposium presented by Coni, the Italian National Olympic Committee during the National Italian American Foundation's 41st annual Gala weekend 2016 held at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park Hotel, on Saturday, October 15, starting at 11:30 a.m.

The symposium is held under the Auspices of H. E. Armando Varricchio, ambassador if Italy to the United States, is organized by OMRI Knight Officer Mico Delianova Licastro, the Italian National Olympic Committee's Representative in the US and is hosted by John Viola, president and COO of the National Italian American Foundation.

How organized extracurricular sport activities for children help them develop and improve cognitive skills, such as greater concentration capacity, that can in time greatly help them in the classroom, will be addressed by psycho-education scientist and university professor Linda Pagani, from the Université de Montréal and a researcher at Montreal's CHU Sainte-Justine Children's hospital. Her work focuses on childhood development and the identification of factors that influence kids as they grow up, with a view to helping parents, teachers and organizations to prioritize positive activities and behaviors. Some of her most recent research looks specifically at the influences of team sports. Dr. Pagani has published many scientific papers and articles on the research she developed over many years of study and field work.

Prof. Pagani said: "Mens sana in corpore sano pegs down the concept that organized and somewhat vigorous motor activity leads to good cardiovascular and cerebral health. This has been helpful in light of the global epidemic of sedentary behavior and obesity. Our research and that of others has shown how beneficial physical activity can be on cognitive performance for youth."

Dr. Keith Whitescarver, the other symposium speaker, is the founding director of the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. In this capacity he oversees efforts to support and expand new and existing high-quality, public Montessori programs. Dr. Whitescarver became familiar with Montessori through the schooling of his own child. Enthused by the impact of the Montessori approach on learning and human development, he began to undertake research on Montessori and, in doing so, he saw the need for a national organization solely devoted to public Montessori schools. Keith is a nationally known historian of literacy and American schooling who has written extensively about the development of the Montessori movement in the United States. Previously, Keith served on the faculties of the College of William and Mary, Ohio University, Wellesley College, and Lesley University, and he worked ten years as a high school history teacher in Atlanta. He received a B.A. in History from the University of Florida and an Ed.D. in History of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Whitescarver said: "We are delighted to be representing the world's largest and longest-lasting alternative educational model, which was originated in 1907 by the Italian physician Maria Montessori, who developed the approach that bears her name through fifty years of experimentation and clinical observation of real children. Movement, along with concentration, freedom within limits, and respect, is a cornerstone of the method."

Mr. Mico Delianova Licastro, underscored that Prof. Pagani's findings and Montessori pedagogy support the work Coni has been undertaking for years. He said:

"A large amount of scientific research, some from the US government health agencies, continues to confirm the fundamental importance to engage children during and after school hours in sports programs, whether organized in team for competition, or just for the fun of it, to develop not only motor skills but also intellectual skills. Coni is keenly aware of the need of society to develop educational programs to initiate youth at their earliest age on a path of healthy life stiles that must also include healthy eating habits. In Italy Coni has partnered with several ministries and private sponsors to achieve its goals to invest in human and financial resources to schools and community organizations to increase the presence of special educators and classroom hours dedicated to a variety of physical activities. I'm very pleased that John Viola is hosting our symposium during Niaf's annual event that is attended by thousand of guests from all over the US and some also from Italy. The children of the Italian American communities are not exempted from the obesity epidemic spreading in this and other countries and the word is out from the scientific and educational establishments for parents to get their children off the couch and into the playing fields."

Mr. John Viola is the first President in NIAF's history who was not elected from the Board of Directors. A graduate of Fordham University with a dual degree in Sociology and Anthropology, Viola has dedicated himself to developing international and domestic service programs inspired by the Jesuit mission to create "men and women for others" and to infuse a sense of social justice into all acts. He is a Knight of the Order of Merit of Savoy and serves as the United States Delegate for the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, one of the oldest Chivalric Orders in the world.

Mr. Viola said: "NIAF is thrilled to work with an institution as important as CONI to host this truly worthwhile symposium. Some of the first Italian Americans who were able to break into the national spotlight were our famous athletes, because there is nothing more democratic and accessible than sports. In sports it doesn't matter where you come from, only how hard you work and what you can contribute. In a world where people are more and more removed from one another and isolated by technology, we think it's imperative to support initiatives like this, which encourage children to engage in sports and other physical activities for fun, for health, and teach them the benefits of accomplishing a goal based on good old fashioned hard work."

The symposium, presented also in collaboration with AMS, the American Montessori Society, will be moderated by Ms. Michael Alison Chandler, a reporter for the Washington Post. She holds a graduate degree from the U.C. Berkeley School of Journalism. Ms. Chandler writes about education, families and social issues in the Washington region. In recent years, she re-enrolled in high school to learn why American students struggle with math and traveled to South Korea to see what education reform looks like in one of the world's highest performing countries. A native of Ohio, she has lived on both coasts. Now she lives in DC with her husband and two sons.

A Q&A period will conclude the symposium.

For additional information or to request interviews with the symposium speakers please call: Mico Delianova Licastro, cell phone 631-566-01567 or e-mail:

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