Wellness

Another major driver that surfaced during the discussions was the issue of wellness, which was made ever more evident by the current pandemic, when all of us had to attempt to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.

Despite increasing awareness as to the importance of themes related to healthy eating, physical activity, inner exploration, and mindfulness, wellness is not always a dominant presence in schools and impactful programs are infrequent.

As a preliminary exploration to the ensuing discussion, please review the following resources:

Please answer the following questions in the Discussion Forum below.

  • Can you identify opportunities for the development of wellness learning activities within existing programs, curriculums and subject matters of the school?
  • Which other initiatives could be implemented schoolwide – including teachers and the community – to develop wellness programs at the school?

21 Replies to “Wellness”

  1. We have an amazing Outdoor Ed program at DWKS that promotes physical activity and education. The benefits of this class:
    1- Students become more attentive
    2- Nature decreases stress and emotion
    3- Improves social skills
    4- More active
    5- More in touch with nature…the list goes on!

    I would like to see more Health Services, counseling, psychological and social for students and staff.
    More family and community involvement would be great.
    Mindfulness-based professional development training for staff is a MUST!!!

  2. For years now, I have been starting my afternoon class by doing “Les trois respirations”. Students close their eyes, take a deep breath through their nose, hold it in for three seconds and exhale through their mouth. We repeat this process three times. I do this because I notice that it helps them to calm their bodies down and prepare to start an afternoon of learning. At first, some kids don’t really do it, but after a while they get into the routine. The days I forget, they will tell me. Even at this young age, they become aware of the benefits. I now realize that I should also be doing this with my morning class. Mindfulness classes would be great for our students and for ourselves. Mindfulness short activities could be part of the Flex Friday afternoons. Then we would have a chance to practice daily in our classes until the next Flex Friday lesson.

    We are also lucky to have a milk and fruit program at our school. Every year, there are kids that have never tasted a pear or a plum. We have a great school kitchen and I’m sure we also have amazing home cooks in our community. It would be great to invite them in our school to do little cooking classes. This could perhaps be another great activity for Flex Friday.

    We also already have a compost initiative running at the school. Right now, we don’t yet have our school fence, but it would be wonderful to have a green house has part of our huge school yard. Students could use the vegetables they grow in the Flex Friday cooking class. It could also become an interactive science class, math class (graphs, measurements, etc.), language class (poems, songs, vocabulary, etc.) and the list goes on. Students would also learn about responsibility. Gardening has a calming effect on the body, this brings us back to mindfulness.

    If we can feed our students bodies and souls in a healthy way, it can only give them better opportunities for learning.

  3. – At the beginning of every French class, my students spend the first few minutes writing in their journals while I play meditation music. Following this quiet time, they are invited to share (always in French). This often leads to great discussions. Students are invited to give the topic, sometimes the topic is given by me, sometimes it is simply writing about what in on their mind.
    – The “calm” app is used in my ERC classes. I get daily mindfulness challenges for students
    – DWKS HS has a “Wellness Day” every year where students participate in four workshops ; healthy relationships, stress and anxiety, yoga, and a workshop where each students creates a nebula jar (a sensory jar which is excellent for calming children with sensory needs) and stress balls.
    – Many LES’ focus on nutrition and eating well
    – Our WOTP program is involved in cooking
    – Fruit program where students can serve themselves to fruit every day
    _ DWKS has many wonderful programs. I think that our students would benefit from more Wellness days where we can reach out to our community resources to help facilitate
    – Live different day

  4. There are so many possibilities! I ordered a very small green house for daycare with the idea in mind that students could grow their own healthy food. I love Josée’s idea of having a large one outside. How cool would it be students to have classes where they plant and tend to their vegetables and then other classes where they cook with them. Cooking and recipe following involves reading, math, science and many other subjects.

    I believe that we have the potential to revamp our lunch hour. I was a part of lunch supervision every day last year on the elementary side. Lunch and snacks at our school are very very rushed. Its important to eat healthy but also important not to race to swallow down their food to be the first one at the monkey bars. Eating is an opportunity for discussion with classmates about how the day is going, how things are at home or anything that is making them anxious or or that they are really excited about. As for me ,I always used the lunch hour to strike up conversations with students who are normally quite timid or that I just don’t usually get the opportunity to converse with.
    Perhaps if we could make lunch an event and this event was not a race it was a really cool part of the day that all students wanted to be apart of by adding music and encouraging them to try new foods that we could offer. This could make lunch, snacks and nutrition in general as important and valued as outdoor play. I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement there.

    1. You are right that lunch time could be very different. There are lots of kids who could be much more active during this time too, which would improve their afternoon concentration.

      Staggered recesses may provide different challenges/opportunities in this regard of they continue in the fall

    2. I too agree that while ‘free-play’ is a very important part of child development, the school playground is a vital place of social development. This past year’s lunch time programming appeared to be very positive for elementary students. The ‘Forest’ lunch program from two years ago was also wonderful for students- perhaps it could be something to include this year again.

  5. I always tend to skip straight to the idea of mental health when thinking about wellness but it is important for me to remember that there are many levels of needs that need to be met before a person is able to focus on their learning. Food, sleep, safety, love -if a person is missing one of these things it’s very difficult for them to learn.

    We have opportunities to include a lot more movement in our classes and this is something I have been trying to increase in my classes. When done right it helps concentration.

    In the past I have had some success with yoga. I have also tried and aborted attempts at meditation/mindfulness. These are things I need to approach more consistently. I would benefit from training in these areas.

    An increased nutrition program would be amazing. Most kids live to try new things and are so excited when they find something they like.

    There are lots of people who grow veg. in the school community and wider community some who have involved kids with it in the past.

    It would be very possible and affordable to set up indoor vertical gardens through a local company (our growing season is short).
    https://www.growforyouinc.com

    Flex Fridays would be a fabulous way too include a variety of everyone’s suggestions.

    1. I witnessed first hand one day how you incorporated movement for wellness in your class Russell. The students had a bit of writer’s block and you got them up out of their seats and they did a few exercises in pairs before returning to their written work. Amazing!

  6. The ideas presented here are awesome and right up my alley! It has been my dream for years to have a school greenhouse and garden. For a few years we planted fall vegetables at the community gardens and the kids loved it and the rewards. Digging for potatotes and carrots was like digging for gold. We have included some healthy cooking in our high school outdoor education class and could certainly do more including with our grade 5/6 outdoor ed. It is a great option especially when the weather is not nice. We also have a fully functional kitchen, On our canoe trip we really encourage our students to cook and we teach them how to start and cook over an open fire as part of the curriculum. Cooking and gardening, growing etc. can be easily incorporated into our math and science classes. We are already doing some of this. We have grown various plants with our students and they love it, very hands on. Think what the possibilities would be with a greenhouse and gardens – teaching our students how to be self sustaining, to cook, to eat healthy… As mentioned our students are composting and while it could be better, it’s a start. There is a lot of science and math involved in food prep. and cooking which could easily be included in our curriculum. For example I liked the teacher asking about physical or chemical change, the idea of learning measurement, how food and the senses go together…We are also teaching them environmental stewardship. I think involving our students in the preparation aspect of food and then allowing them to enjoy the eating of it would be awesome. Combining the ideas of healthy eating and active lifestyles is so important. Again we could include this as part of our science and physed./outdoor ed. classes. I think linking the idea of healthy eating and how we feel, our energy level, body image… has to be better emphasized. I also liked the idea of having outside people like chefs come in and teach about cooking and healthy eating. I’m sure that parents and grandparents and even staff who like to cook could be involved in this kind of endeavor. We also have many local businesses who produce food. A school trip to these local places and to see how they operate would be neat. I often thought having a “30 mile meal” evening combined with a film about environmental issues would be neat. Local businesses could come and set up booths or present what they did. It would also promote the whole idea of buying local. Could we have a chicken coup???? Produce our own eggs??? I could go on and on!

    I really liked the idea of having a mindfulness class or at least some time set aside during class or advisory for this. Our students and staff live very stressful lives. Learning how to manage stress is extemely important.

    1. I really think cooking is a skill we can (should) help our students learn. I have been thinking about how extra-curriculars (sports, DI, etc.) are going to look this year with COVID restrictions. Perhaps cooking, yoga, art, paddling, etc. will become part of our after school programming 🙂

      1. I think learning to cook and bake is an excellent idea. DWKS has a kitchen, milk and fruit programs to assist. They are essential life skills. It incorporates Science, Math, Language Arts. It could also be your calming technique or a future occupation.
        I saw Josee teach her students french fruit vocabulary from making a fruit salad. I don”t like waste so when I worked in K4-K5 I cut the kids’ fruit from the fruit program for them. While I did I taught fractions (1/4, 1/2 or a whole piece of ___.) One student who only ate bananas for months asked to try 1/4 of an apple. She tried SOMETHING NEW and liked it.
        When I was in grade six our teacher told us that we were going to make Rock Soup. The name sounded cool and I was very curious to taste it. It was only a pot with a big, clean rock and vegetables. She taught cutting, peeling and measuring. It was a fun math and life skills experience and we were in the teachers staff room which was exciting.. At home, I may have stuck my nose up and automatically hated it without trying it. I thought the rock would make it different. It didn’t. It tasted like homemade vegetable soup. Like the video, I TRIED what I thought was SOMETHING NEW and liked it.

        I needed to know that COOKING NEEDS VARIETY. I wish I was taught a wider variety of cooking recipes. I learned to cook watching and helping my mom and grandmothers. Most meals were meat and potatoes. I use ‘A little bit of this and a little bit of that’ style of cooking which is an asset. Add ingredients/spices to taste instead of following a recipe. I see the variety of healthy meals our staff bring in and wonder if I’d like it. I’m not one to like healthy but I’d like to try new and tasty meals and deserts.
        I know that BAKING RELAXED ME as a tween, kept me busy and quiet at home while my nurse mom was sleeping from the night shift.

        I think the presence of wellness awareness is crucial. Students can try a variety of new things, find their likes and dislikes and what makes them feel calm in and outside of school.
        Living in a small community is an asset. We know most people and either their children, grandchildren or themselves have attended our school. These community resources could not only show our students new activities, they would understand community commitment, meet new people, make contacts and perhaps want to shop locally more often.

        A mindfulness class could greatly benefit both students and staff.
        With all the stresses surrounding us, it is important to find our own stress relief. Learning breathing techniques is a simple way to reduce anxiety and can be used anywhere. Like good earphones, you can eliminate the noise around you, focusing only on yourself. A Grateful Journal is another stress reducer. When you take the time to focus on good things in life you become more positive. It can be as simple as being grateful for -I have a pen, -someone brought chocolate -the sun.
        Today I am grateful for my daughter, my phone call from my mom and air conditioning during this week’s heat wave.

  7. At our school, We have the chance to have a forest in the backyard of our school. Every day, the students in k4 and k5 classes spend time learning, working together, and exploring in the outdoor classroom. Through these experiences in nature, the students learn to understand and respect nature and feel a connection to our world. Outdoor education helps the students to developpe their curiosity, self-direction and focus. Unstructured outdoor play helps them learn to take turns, share and contribute to developing other positive behavioural skills. I am a strong believer that: Being in nature is good for the brain, the soul and the body, fresh air and free play reduces stress levels and have a positive impact on our wellness. I am participating in a project with the Agriculture Society of Chapeau, to have the students learn about gardening, agriculture and participate in a community garden. I participated in building planters and maybe the model could be reproduced in Christine’s woodshop class. I would love to be able to have a project like that come to life. I do believe that stepping out of my comfort zone will open new ways to teach and have the students in feeling a sense of belonging to their school. I love my school… which contributes to my wellness.

    1. Caroline- I think the planters are perfect for our school. The structure can be built by most ages of students and then each student could have their own bucket to plant, water, weed and harvest! I would commit to this as a spring project!

  8. WOW!!!! Anyone reading your reflections cannot miss the passion, enthusiasm, and fundamental commitment to well being for all! Forget initiatives we might read about elsewhere-it’s all at DWKS!!! Your descriptions of current activities as well as your creative intellect looking forward is inspiring…..there’s nothing I could add (hard to believe, right???) Yet I’d simply reiterate the importance of the concept of “mindfulness” for kids and all staff. How often we’ve considered the mental health of individuals but felt powerless to meaningfully intervene. We are the “change agents” with the greatest forum to begin education about “mental health” so that stigmas can be further eroded…..it seems that lots of your work with bullying might interface here…..in any event, even in retirement I’d love to have a wider array of tools to assist with the chronic issue of “balance” in life. (aside) There should be visual documentation of all your reflections!

  9. I believe that DWKS fosters Wellness, in multiple ways. Some of the curriculums cover topics that tie into wellness, in science multiple grades look at nutrition (In which many students are in misbelief when they learn about what they should be eating, vs what they are eating, and which food groups are responsible for what functions). Additionally, I remember covering in grade 9 “fad” diets, in which students researched to see what these diets were and why they are not healthy/practical. I believe having these topics in the curriculum helps students be self-aware of their choices and the wellness of their physical health. I am sure that other subjects find ways to celebrate wellness as well, science is just one that I am more familiar with. In the high school, I really loved the idea of advisories, and how we can incorporate wellness in different ways. The school invited two different presentations in that I really liked for the students, and created an easy gateway into more maybe more difficult topics surrounding mental wellness.

    As far as newer initiatives, it would be nice to have a program running that was supported by teachers, but more so ran by students. I feel like working towards empowering our students to be aware of their own wellness and connect with other students’ wellness stories. Having students more so run the program could really help our idea of supporting wellness in a very authentic and meaningful way, in comparison to a more forced practice.

  10. Mindfulness … being aware of where our students are coming from, what they are going through and what they are exposed to is part of our job as teachers today. We have this opportunity at our school, it being small in numbers allows us to be in tune with our student’s lives. We have the opportunity for our students to be mindful of themselves and others at our school.

    Josée, I think it’s great what you do with your students before starting your class. Such an important part of the learning process in order to get our students to focus and be motivated.
    Karen, our “Wellness Day” we have at the school. wouldn’t be nice to have that more often.

    Love the idea of our school having our own greenhouse and garden. Giving these opportunities to our students is very possible. We have had great opportunities at our school such as organizing events, cooking lunches and so much more. I have done some cooking with a small number of WOTP students, but it certainly would benefit all our students if they could all experience cooking or baking. Our outdoor ed program of course is an important component of our curriculum that helps tie everything together, connecting our students to being mindful.

    Christine, as you mentioned, this past year’s lunch time programming had the presence of fun and positive play in the school yard. Brittany had a lot to do with this being part of a grant that allowed an adult to organize and show our kids how to play. We had planned for Micheal Montgomery to come to our school to show and demonstrate his Playmakers program. Brittany, Neil and I had it scheduled for him to spend a day or two with Brittany just before our schools shut down.

    Mackenzie, you are right, we do foster wellness at our school on so many different levels. We help our students to be mindful of themselves and others. If we opened up the possibilities for our students to take initiatives, to feel there is purpose behind these initiatives, it certainly would be empowering to them and to us!

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