Our classrooms are microcosms of the larger world and spaces where tremendous growth can occur. Students engage with content specific curriculum, learn how to navigate and balance school work and a social life, and also have the opportunity to develop healthy habits that will continue to serve them throughout their lives.

As educators, we can share information through direct instruction and demonstrate the practicality of ideas through our actions. These tips and tools for incorporating health and wellness into the classroom should be implemented throughout the school year and not simply during the dreaded cold and flu season.

 

Define + Discuss  

Defining health and wellness for students should be an ongoing conversation and is most effective when partnered with practical applications for their daily lives. Incorporating discussions around health and healthy practices can deepen their connection to themselves and to the choices they make every day.

 

Define

Health encapsulates our physical and mental state.

Wellness is the pursuit of taking care of ourselves and an ongoing journey.

 

Health and wellness require us to be active participants on the journey to being our strongest, and best selves.

 

            Discuss

We all benefit from an open dialogue in which everyone is invested, able to share their perspectives, and voice their questions and/or confusions.

When discussing these important topics, it is necessary to acknowledge different individual perspectives and various cultural attitudes and traditions. We can all learn from what others have done to achieve better health or a more peaceful state of mind.

Prior to having students engage in a whole-class discussion, I reiterate the expectations that will allow all participants to feel respected and heard.

                       

Discussion Expectations

  • Cell phones and headphones are put away (limit distractions)
  • Attention is given to the individual who is sharing (be present)
  • Listeners are actively engaged and should be able to summarize what has been shared (active participation)

 

Suggested discussion starters

  • Share a recipe, practice, or tradition that your family uses to stay healthy during the school year.
  • How do you manage school and life stress? What habits help you find balance?
  • When you feel like you may be getting sick, what are the most effective ways you’ve found to combat a cold or flu?
  • Describe daily actions that allow you to feel your best, physically and mentally.
  • Analyze your food and beverage choices for a given day. What impact do you think branding has on your decision making?

 

Actionable Steps

Developing healthy, sustainable habits takes practice. Each of the activities listed below is designed to engage students in ways that build their self-awareness and provide them with alternative options for managing stress.

Understanding ourselves is a critical component to navigating life’s demands and finding a sense of balance and peace. Developing a student’s sense of self will allow them to identify their own needs and to better advocate for their own health.

  • Reducing screen time: Establishing clear expectations around screen time is crucial in our digital day. Build in tech-free time into daily lessons and encourage collaboration and engagement among students. It’s also a great opportunity to emphasize the importance of finding peace amidst a busy day.
  • Journaling: Incorporate intentional writing time for students where they have the freedom to explore their creativity and share their thoughts. Keeping a journal is a useful tool for growth and an opportunity to focus inward.
  • Book Club: Establishing a book club in class is a fantastic way to break from screens and provide students with a peaceful moment that they might not seek themselves. When the weather is right, I also recommend taking students outside the classroom and allowing them to find a peaceful spot on campus in which to read.
  • Goal-setting: Students often make choices that solve an immediate problem but don’t serve them in the long run. Allowing them to outline goals for a project or for the semester, teaches them the importance of long-term planning.
  • Brain Breaks: Defeating fatigue and burn-out is key to staying healthy and keeping stress at bay. Essentially this time is reserved for team-building and collaborating. Students have the option to play games, engage with arts and crafts projects, or maintain our class garden.

           

Put it into Practice

  • Define + discuss
  • Establish expectations + routines
  • Demonstrate healthy habits through actions + class activities
  • Develop self-awareness as a tool for their own wellness journey