A Whole Child Approach to Health and Wellness

In my tenure as Head of the Upper School, there has been a significant shift in our health and wellness curriculum. Our initial offerings included only a grade 9 health class and a sexuality education seminar for seniors; we now provide wellness programming at every grade level and comprehensive sexuality education for all students in grades 9 through 12. We believe this expansion is important, as a student’s ability to succeed beyond their Upper School experience is not only an academic venture but one that encompasses the whole child.
As mentioned, the grade 9 Health and Wellness class has been a cornerstone of the Upper School experience for many years. Our new instructor, Amanda Banachoski, has broadened the list of topics that are covered and collaborated with School Counselor Karen Boyer for lessons on the mind and body connection, body image and eating disorder education, and depression and anxiety prevention. Additionally, students in grade 9 are taking yoga for half of the year and incorporating mindfulness into their classes as needed. In a survey at the start of the year, students in grade 10 decided to focus their health and wellness sessions on the following: stress management, mindfulness, depression and anxiety prevention, healthy body image, healthy decision-making around drugs and alcohol, and relationship skills with peers. Taught by Karen Boyer, these lessons are student-driven, discussion-based, and highly interactive.

In grades 11 and 12, health and wellness topics are addressed through the junior and senior seminar as well as the sexuality education programming on CoLab days. Led by Director of College Counseling Keith Bryner, the junior study is focused on self-assessment and exploration of interests and passions in preparation for the college search. During senior year, Director of Athletics Shayla Scott works with students as they prepare to launch into life on their own, learning how to navigate resources at the university level, how to prepare healthy foods in a dorm room, and other essential life skills. 

In her most recent book, Under Pressure, renowned psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour writes, “[w]e want our girls to build real skills, to know how to work hard when they need to, and to believe that their talents will help them rise to meet challenges.” Our wellness programming does just that by encouraging the application of real-world skills and providing outlets for girls to question and learn more about themselves, building agency for their Upper School years and beyond.