By Michelle Carstens, Middle School Physical Education Teacher
D-E’s Health and Wellness Team—composed of several Middle and Upper School Physical Education faculty—hosted the first-ever Wellness Week January 4 to 8 as a way to get the students and faculty excited about coming back to school after the long holiday break.
Wellness was promoted school-wide—not just in health and wellness classes. Throughout the week, students engaged in faculty vs. student fitness competitions during extended recess, wellness-related activities during HomeBase (such as goal setting and tai-chi), and mindfulness exercises and “brain breaks” during classes. The cafeteria got involved and served a delicious healthy meal while the library displayed an assortment of wellness books for students to read at their leisure or during a silent reading class.
The whole initiative began with an assembly at which the Health and Wellness Team presented the agenda for the week as well as the “Principals in Training” video that showed Upper School Principal Joe Algrant and Middle School Principal Kathy Christoph vigorously training for the Wellness Week events. Following the video, a group of students participated in the first faculty-student “plank challenge” vs. Mrs. Christoph, who ended up as a co-winner with Luc Gagnon ’22. Throughout the week, the Health and Wellness Team sent out emails with daily wellness tips to educate students.
The Middle School students responded positively to the competitive nature of the events. While eighth grade social studies teacher Mimi Garcia and seventh grade social studies teacher Matthew Schade were the winners of the sack race and iron cross challenges, the students prevailed by winning the plank, wall sit, and push up challenges. (Winners were awarded a gift certificate for a healthy snack at the Coop.) The most popular event was the wall sit competition. A huge group of Middle School students took up an entire wall of the big gym to compete for the chance to beat the teachers. The wall sit lasted over four minutes, with two Middle Schoolers securing the victory over the teachers!
Students who read the daily wellness emails carefully had a chance to compete in the “Let’s Make a Deal” challenge at the end of the week. Participants who answered the questions correctly were awarded prizes such as a yoga mat, water bottle, sporting equipment, and jump rope.
A Tough Mudder-style obstacle course challenge during the week helped to build community between the Upper School and Middle School by incorporating the Middle School “Mudders” activity group with the Upper School Strength and Conditioning Team.
In addition, Zumba classes taught by Lisa Wittner, the ninth grade dean and a Zumba instructor, took both faculty and students through Latin-American dance-inspired aerobic movements for a high-energy, full-body workout.
In the weight room, particularly during the Upper School lunch period, teachers and students came in to earn points for the weeklong “Bulldog Grit Challenge.” It is hoped that teachers will continue to make use of the cardio and weight room facilities for the benefits of stress relief and overall health.
The week turned out to be valuable experience for all—and one that is expected to become an annual event.