SCAPA tries new approach to support mental health
Grades 4 through 8 can be a difficult stretch for children as they go through physical changes and start to exercise more independence. During these transition years, mental health is important for keeping youngsters on track, so SCAPA at Bluegrass recently piloted a national program called health. moves. minds. to support its students.
The program, created by SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators), featured such concepts as kindness, mindfulness, and empowerment. “Kindness is more than a word,” said seventh grader Ella Sewell, who advocates building people up. Classmate Lily Webber agreed on the impact of kind actions, adding, “If you just smile, it can make a big difference in somebody’s life.”
Health and P.E. teacher Angela Stark led the schoolwide curriculum, which included talk about positive influences and smart choices. “These are life lessons that we all need,” she noted. “It focuses on managing emotions and strategies like better breathing, and it’s such an important thing that should be taught – especially with the levels of anxiety and depression our kids struggle with.”
To cap the month, SCAPA hosted a themed Spirit Week. On Day 1, everyone wore a nametag to greet people personally. “You feel more valued because somebody knows your name,” Stark explained. The second day featured a scavenger hunt at lunchtime to ensure nobody ate alone. On Day 3, students wore shirts highlighting their favorite hobby, TV show, or sport so they could group themselves by interest. The fourth day encouraged random acts of kindness, which led to a wall of Post-It examples. For Day 5, students and staff wore green and “Be Kind” T-shirts to promote mental health awareness. The finale also included the annual Jog for the Arts, which this year raised money for wellness activities. Rotating by class, the students aimed to complete 26 laps around the interior of the building, which totaled about 2¼ miles in just over a half-hour.
Throughout October, Stark could already see the benefits of health. moves. minds. around SCAPA. “Kids notice they’re feeling better and are better able to handle situations when they arise,” she said. Students also endorsed the program. As 12-year-old Kyndra Coomer said, “It helps you get along and meet new people and find out new things about yourself.”