Wellness: A New Sturgis Initiative


By Morgan Derby and the Well-Being Committee

“Wellness” depicted by 2012 Relay for Life Team
Photo by Al Martin

Over the course of the past year, a combined committee of Sturgis faculty and students has been exploring and developing wellness programming for the Sturgis East Campus. Driven by a profound concern for our students’ overall health and well-being – and supported by the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and education – notable recent endeavors include: the procurement of grant funding for wellness teaching materials and texts; the piloting of two mindfulness curricula; the introduction of formal wellness classes; and the continued professional training of multiple faculty members. Moving forward, the committee hopes to nurture a school and community-wide culture that both fosters students’ overall well-being and integrates this emphasis into the daily lives of our students. Beginning in the spring of 2013, the Well-Being Committee hopes to address the faculty, student body, and parent community at large through a series of information and training sessions.

Brij Anand – Sturgis West Wellness

Wellness Program - WestWellness has been a wonderful addition to the curriculum. Grades, 9, 10 and 11 are involved in a once a cycle program that centers on the Project Adventure curriculum: http://www.pa.org/. Adventure is about taking risks, not just physical risks, but emotional risks where students see the natural consequences before them.   The curriculum follows an experiential model of teaching that provides the students with these opportunities.   Experiential learning ensures that the activities are not just isolated and meaningless for the student.  There is a period for reflection and debriefing so that students can draw relevance from their experiences. The purpose of the activities is to offer opportunities where students can experience the power that lies within them to make positive changes and to enjoy being physically active.

The first few lessons developed the idea of building community and creating a full value contract which is something that the class strives to maintain throughout the year.  The contract we follow includes “play with heart, play safe, and play fair, be present, let go & move on and speak the truth.”  Some groups have now transitioned into leadership, teaming building and problem solving activities.

As well as adventure, students have been exposed to fitness concepts and strategies which empower individuals to develop their own PEP – personal fitness plan.

 Alanna Hernandez – Sturgis East Wellness

With their rigorous academic course load, as well as their participation in a large number of extra-curricular activities, Sturgis students are sometimes under a lot of stress without much downtime. Add to that the pressure of getting into college: it is not only more difficult than ever to get accepted, but also more expensive than ever and can leave accepted students with massive debt. Not least of all is the constant chatter of social media. Everybody is updating everyone else on what they’re doing, who they’re with, what they’re thinking, and the whole world can see it and make judgments. How often do students get to stop and breathe? When are they alone with their thoughts?  How do they get to know themselves?

The Wellness program at Sturgis East aims to allow students just those things. The class is a combination of yoga postures, relaxation, and meditation.  It gives students a break from sitting at a desk, lets them exercise and stretch, teaches them how to be alone with their thoughts, and provides them a space for much-needed relaxation time. Currently classes are learning many basic and challenging postures with time devoted to basic meditation exercises and relaxation. Feedback has been very positive! We provide a safe environment where students can develop a positive body image, and they have gone above and beyond expectations in treating their peers with kindness and respect. Their open-mindedness and maturity is what has allowed everybody to feel comfortable and enjoy their Wellness classes, and it has been a joy for me to teach.

As the year goes on and the students get more comfortable with the postures, we hope to put more focus on the students getting to know themselves. Students will be encouraged to think about what foods make their body feel best, what activities make them feel stressed or feel good, and what qualities (good or bad) make them who they are.

Alanna Hernandez  (center) with Geronimo Kelley and Cassie Langtry

Wellness Instructor Alanna Hernandez (center) with Geronimo Kelley and Cassie Langtry

One of the double-block Wellness classes is using their extra time to design and draw a Sturgis-themed mandala. The process is meant to be creative and meditative, but it will also be an exercise in teamwork. The students will be thinking about what the Sturgis community means to them, and their work will be displayed for the benefit of Sturgis students in the Wellness room.

Yoga at your Desk : The Well Being Committee has developed a toolkit of tips for teachers and students on how to work wellness into their day. Yoga at your Desk includes yoga exercises and meditations with pictures and written explanations. Thanks to Sturgis East students Geronimo Kelley, Cassie Langtry,  Amelia Bigwood, John Bondarek and Skylar Beauregard for demonstrating the yoga and meditation exercises!

Sturgis Soundings Ma…

Further Reading about Yoga in the Classroom

For more information about the benefits of yoga in schools, see: “Yoga in Public Schools: More Public Schools are Discovering Yoga for Kids can Benefit Classroom Management – and Learning,” Teaching Tolerance, Fall 2012 http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-42-fall-2012/yoga-public-schools

Further Reading about the Connection between Physical Activity and Academic Performance

“The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance”

Sturgis West Nurse Jenna Arledge says: “Physical activity is not just for Wellness class anymore!!” She recently sent Sturgis faculty a summary of results from a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) linking physical activity and academic performance.  Several excerpts from the CDC summary are provided below:

When children and adolescents participate in the recommended level of physical activity—at least 60 minutes daily—multiple health benefits accrue. Most youth, however, are not engaging in recommended levels of physical activity.

There is a growing body of research focused on the association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance among school-aged youth.

Across all 50 studies (reported in 43 articles), there were a total of 251 associations between physical activity and academic performance, representing measures of academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores), academic behavior (e.g., on-task behavior, attendance), and cognitive skills and attitudes (e.g., attention/concentration, memory, mood).

There are a number of policy implications stemming from this review:

  • There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement (including grades and standardized test scores).
  • The articles in this review suggest that physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.
  • Increasing or maintaining time dedicated to physical education may help, and does not appear to adversely impact, academic performance.

The full text of the CDC’s summary report “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance,” is available here: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pape_executive_summary.pdf

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