13 Apr

Message from Joe

Dear Parents,

We have now entered the final phase of the scheduling process for next year. As you work with your child, I wanted to clarify a change that we are making in the Health and Wellness department. It’s actually a new philosophy and guiding principle for the department, much aligned with other changes taking place in the Upper School curriculum.

The specific change is that we have reduced the requirement in health and wellness from all eight semesters of high school to four semesters total. One semester must be taken in ninth grade, and serves as the introduction to the department’s curriculum. It will focus on skills, habits, and knowledge that will prepare students for later life by training in different types of exercise, and teaching subjects like nutrition and body fitness. The electives that follow will offer students several choices that focus on different ways to establish life-long fitness habits and patterns. We believe it’s vital for students to take advantage of well-established understandings about the impact of exercise on long term vitality, health, and happiness.

The elective choices include options such as yoga and mindfulness, spinning, weight training, cpr and first aid, self-defense and kick boxing, strength and conditioning. Students over their time will be able to learn different ways to exercise and stay healthy in adulthood.

These are courses that we believe are important for all students to have while in high school, and therefore we have also decided to eliminate the opportunity for students to be exempted, either for playing on teams in school, or for out of school activities. Unlike the old curriculum, which was very much like what students were doing on teams, these courses are quite different, and designed for team athletes as well, who are not learning the skills for later years.

For some, especially the current ninth graders, this may feel like we are taking away a privilege that previously had been available, for they will have to take two more semesters of health and wellness during their next six terms. We return to the reason that we have changed the department’s curriculum, that these courses focus on the exposure to and development of life-long knowledge and behavior. Present 10th and 11th graders have completed their requirements, and can choose elective courses as they want over the next year, which we hope they do.

This shift, towards more relevant, life-long study complements what we are adding with our new seminar courses in grades 9 and 10. Apart from what happens in the health and wellness department, these seminars cover other aspects of physical and mental health, alongside transition to high school issues (grade 9), sex education, and an investigation of identity and diversity.

The health and wellness faculty have developed these courses in the hopes that they transform the ways in which students approach thinking about their future selves, in much the same way other departments in the school aim to prepare for a life of study and work. The shift we make next year represents a further step in our understandings about the connections between mind and body, and how those connections make for academic success as well as a more balanced, happy life.