An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Personal Development and Wellness

Lakeside School’s 5-12 personal development and wellness program teaches students about the development of the adolescent brain, body, and mind. Watch this short video featuring department head Julie Lutton ’03 sharing the top three things students and families should know about this department and its classes.

Through learning about current neuroscience research on decision-making and reflecting on their own values, students come to a greater understanding of what they believe and why. They also learn about and practice interpersonal skills – how they communicate and interact with others. A goal of the program is for students to use their knowledge and skills to make smart decisions about their relationships with and responsibilities to their immediate community and the larger world.


Classes at all grade levels deal with similar topics but at different, developmentally appropriate levels, using methods such as role-playing and talking through real-world situations. Topics covered include values and identity; friendships and other relationships; mindfulness; effective communication; mental and emotional health; and stereotypes. Activities and assignments regularly encourage students to talk with family members about what they’re learning.

Middle School: Exploring identity and relationships


Every student in the Middle School takes a personal development class, each with a central theme. In 5th grade, students get to know themselves and learn about getting along with others. In 6th grade, students explore the question “who am I?” In 7th grade, students consider “who am I with you?” and in 8th grade, the culminating theme is “who am I in community?”

All four Middle School courses focus on learning to take care of brains and bodies, learning about personal identities and the identities of others, and how to navigate relationships.

Learn more about the Middle School personal development program in the Middle School curriculum guide.

Upper School: Identity development and personal wellness

Personal development and wellness courses are offered at the Upper School for 9th and 12th grade students. The 9th grade wellness course centers on identity development, and building the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and improve physical, emotional, social, and intellectual wellbeing in high school and beyond. 

Topics covered in the course, taken by all 9th grade students, include resilience, positive psychology, strong minds and bodies, and thinking and choosing for yourself.

The 12th grade wellness elective dives into topics like navigating personal finances, how to be an ally and an effective bystander, making and maintaining friendships in young adulthood, navigating consent and romantic relationships beyond high school, and more.

Learn more about the Upper School personal development and wellness program in the Upper School curriculum guide.

Learn more about personal development and wellness at Lakeside

Meet the personal development and wellness faculty

SPARC: Applying passions to real causes

Students research an issue or cause that they believe in, then complete a personal action step in 8th-grade Personal Development.