by Eleanor Long, Upper School physical education/wellness department head and teacher
In my first year teaching at Lakeside, I knew I would experience change. But even though I anticipated a learning curve, I sensed that Lakeside would support me – both as a new person in the community and in my efforts to develop a Wellness course for 9th graders.
The new Wellness course is designed to break open the view that health is solely about exercise and eating leafy green vegetables. We are working from a concept of wellness that encompasses so much more. One needs to make sure one's life includes the appropriate ratios of sleep, movement, nutritious and enjoyable food, social time, play, intellectual stimulus, focus, and, to quote Head of School Bernie Noe, "time to do nothing." These ratios shift over the course of one's life; only an individual knows where the sweet spot lies for themselves at any given time. Wellness starts with understanding aspects of one's identity, then growing one's awareness outwards to include understanding, appreciating, and nurturing relationships in wider and wider circles of communities. Our goal is to give students tools to navigate their teenage years with awareness, wisdom, and compassion toward themselves and others.
Ninth-grade students are at a specific point in their adolescent lives. They are told often by society that they just need to make it through this "dark and turbulent" period full of raging hormones and reckless actions and "grow up." Our Wellness course is designed to shift the message. We want students to understand that adolescence is a time to explore activities that ignite their passions and creativity; develop a more abstract, complex understanding of themselves and their communities (locally to globally); and find ways to feel comfortable and healthy in their bodies, minds, and spirits.
Halfway through the first year, the course has covered the basics of physical literacy, nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness. As we shifted into the second half of the year, I asked students to reflect on which parts of the course were most valuable to them. Their responses were as varied as the topics covered. Some students find days when we play most valuable, others commented that the introduction to mindfulness and meditation was much needed. Others appreciated the nutrition unit, the discussion of the importance of sleep, and basic CPR skills.
I feel grateful for the opportunity to develop and teach such an innovative course. My passion for it is strengthened by knowing students are internalizing the lessons. I look forward to growing alongside them as we all continue to settle into the Lakeside Upper School community.