For PreK through high school, our Student Affairs team has launched a stepped up wellness initiative in September that will span the full academic year. Our deans and directors partnered with faculty to lead the charge for a "Wellness Year" that integrates wellness themes into year round programming.
"The whole Student Affairs Team had a meeting of the minds this summer, and all deans and directors discussed ways a Wellness Year focus could span all grades with themes that are relevant for students in PreK to high school," said Dean Darcy Golka of Primary Grades (2–4). "We worked on what students in our different age bands need to hear, and we spent time ensuring messages were age appropriate."
Monthly programming themes were designated based on what deans and directors knew were happening in students' lives and thinking through what was appropriate developmentally. They wanted to create a more robust program that would spark conversations among students about themes that go beyond wellness and tap into social-emotional learning.
Director of the High School Robin Wallace shared the core approach: "For Wellness Year, each month an academic department will adopt a theme related to wellness. Faculty will tie the theme into the class in order to generate conversations and provide strategies for integrating wellness into our everyday lives."
In September the school-wide theme was "Peer Relationships & Communication," and our English department worked to provide in-class activities that not only enhanced students engagement with one another, but also simultaneously encouraged greater interaction with the content of the class.
"Reading text requires one to consider different perspectives, the context of a situation, and the impact of the information on all stakeholders involved," said Director Wallace in her monthly newsletter to high school parents. "These skills translate both to the curriculum, as well as our students' ability to interact with one another."
In mid-September in Dr. Noudehou’s Honors Literature class, the group discussed the importance of empathy as individuals, peers, and scholars. You can see one of the bulletin boards produced by the class, pictured above.
For our Early Learning and Primary Program (PreK–grade 4) our Responsive Classroom informed the September Wellness Year theme of "Peer Relationships and Communications" and October "Community" theme by setting the tone for the year with classes working together to customize greetings to Morning Meeting. Deans also visited all Early Learning and Primary classes for read alouds and discussions of books tied to our theme, such as “Will You By My Friend.” This is part of our social-emotional learning through Second Step that we are continuing.
Wellness Year programming is linked closely to the research-based, age-appropriate Second Step* lessons incorporated into PreK through grade 6 classes. When we deciding themes for Wellness Year, the Student Affairs team thought about tying in with developmentally appropriate Second Step discussions. Empathy, for example, is discussed at a second grade level or a sixth grade level.
Wellness Year Themes were determined this summer by our Student Affairs team meeting and reviewing common conversations that happened during the past school year. Directors Wallace and Fisher both have counseling degrees and helped guide the connections with our deans.
Programming for Wellness Year surrounds a student with class programming, dean- and director-driven events around the school, and conversations among friends and siblings across the school. Even our 5Rs of RESPECT for yourself, classroom, friendships, learning, and community pull through in the programming. When next on campus, be sure to look for the 5Rs signs prominently displayed in each and every classroom at the school.
One good example that showcases how Wellness Year programming evolves for the middle school is the "October Organizational Challenge," which was designed to set students up for success by focusing on and celebrating executive functioning skills early on in the year. Middle School Dean Harmon and Director Fisher worked to make the focus on organization, a key area for academic success, engaging for middle school students. Enlisting the help of teachers, they went on the hunt for the most organized elements at our school looking at CJs, lockers, and binders. The most organized elements will be celebrated proudly at the month's close.
"October was a great time to encourage students to take charge of their learning by helping them figure out an organizational system that works well for them and creating an effective study routine at home," wrote Director Fisher in a recent Middle School Minutes update.
Overall the intention is to make Wellness Year a more dedicated focus, and Student Affairs sets aside time to reflect on what can be improved year over year. The team is eager to support consistent wellness programming and have Wellness Year take root.
"Our goal is for our students to be the best BEARS they can be," said Dean Golka.
Parents can pull through Wellness Year at home by asking students about the different themes each month and what they are discussing around them in classes. Sparking conversations that pull through to the home front are a wonderful way of reinforcing messages, and modeling behavior for students is also critical.
*Parents can find out more about the nonprofit Committee for Children that developed our social-emotional learning curriculum Second Step, which is built on decades of research and experience. The website has a great deal of helpful information across a broad range of subjects.