Health Month: Mental Health Week
by Joey Feith
This is part three of my five-part mini-series on the Health Month initiative I created for my school. In part one, I explained what Health Month is and shared the two month-long initiatives I created for it. In part two, I showcased the different activities I organized for Health Month’s Physical Activity week.
As I explained in the first part of this series, Health Month is an annual, month-long initiative I run throughout the month of May that is designed to help celebrate healthy, active living within my school’s community. The initiative is broken down into four weeks, with each week having it’s own theme:
- Week One: Physical Activity Week 💪
- Week Two: Mental Health Week 🧠
- Week Three: Nutrition Week 🍎
- Week Four: Sleep Week 😴
In this blog post, I will be walking you through the activities and challenges that I created for Health Month’s Mental Health Week.
Health Month: Mental Health Week
As I mentioned in my previous Health Month posts, I established a few learning targets to guide the design of each week’s activities/challenges. For Mental Health Week, the learning targets were:
✅ I can define mental health in my own words.
✅ I can define mental health as one of the dimensions of wellness.
✅ I can list a few strategies/tools that I can use to help maintain and/or improve my mental health over time.
I shared these targets with the rest of the faculty via the ‘#healthmonth’ channel in our school’s Slack workspace leading up to Mental Health Week so that everyone was aware and on the same page. The targets were also shared with my school’s parent community via our Health Month weekly email in the hopes that it would guide discussions at home.
Mental Health Week: Advocacy Pieces
Just as in Physical Activity Week, Mental Health week kicked off with a student assembly that gave me an opportunity to discuss mental health with our students and outline the activities and challenges that would be taking place over the course of the week.
The presentation I shared with the students used a lot of the elements that I had created for our Wellness Day back in January. After asking the kids what it means to be healthy, many of the students responded that it involves exercising, eating right, drinking water, and sleeping. From there, I went on the introduce the same dimensions of wellness breakdown that I had shared with our faculty at Wellness Day.
We then defined mental health as the wellbeing of our thoughts, feelings, and relationships with others and discussed how poor mental health can affect all other dimensions of our wellness. The poster you see above was posted around the school to serve as a reminder that wellness goes beyond the physical domain.
With the foundation of this key understanding laid out, I then introduced the week’s mental health-related activities that I’ll go over in the next section of this blog post. All of this information was also shared with the parent community via the weekly Health Month newsletter that is sent out throughout the month of May. I’ve included the templates for each of these newsletters in the Health Month Teacher Pack download.
Mental Health Week: Challenge Pieces
Mental Health Week had a lot going on! Here are the different challenges our school’s community got to experience throughout the week:
Using the same template that I created for my faculty’s Wellness Dimensions Reflection booklets, I create foldable gratitude journals for my students. Here’s an example of what these look like (from the free Wellness Dimensions Reflection Toolkit):
Each page of the journal included a short prompt to help guide the students’ reflections. These prompts included everything from listing things students love about themselves, naming people they can turn to when in need of support, to highlighting the best moments of their week.
Teachers were encouraged to have their students fill out their Gratitude Journals during homeroom each day (either at the start of the end of the day). The students’ journals were personal reflections (i.e. teachers didn’t read them) and the kids got to keep their journals at the end of the week so that they could look back at their reflections throughout the month.
Morning Yoga Sessions
Throughout Mental Health Week, the students got to participate in morning yoga sessions that took place in the gym at the start of the day with each cycle (e.g. K-2, 3-4, 5-6) participating in one yoga session. Tapping into the community’s capacity, these sessions were led by individuals who are licensed yoga instructors. This group included my teaching partner, our campus’ administrative assistant, and even some parents!
The sessions were designed to meet the needs of the students and each session included a conversation on the relationship between yoga/mindfulness and mental health.
Resources were also sent to parents to encourage families to practice yoga at home. These resources included a combination of YouTube Channels and apps that make participating in yoga sessions at home a breeze. Here’s a list of what was sent home:
Random Acts of Kindness
Building on our past “Shout Out” initiative (which involved students writing shoutouts that highlighted good deeds they observed at school), students had access to “Random Acts of Kindness” cards to help celebrate small acts of kindness throughout the day.
These cards were made available in the hall and students could complete cards in their own time when they felt that they had observed a random act of kindness. Completed Random Acts of Kindness cards were then put on display on a bulletin board by our school library (a high traffic area).
We also repurposed an old whiteboard that wasn’t being used and set it up in the schoolyard throughout Mental Health Week. The students were informed that they could use the board to share kind messages, gratitude statements, or words of encouragement with the rest of the school.
No Homework Day
The final piece of Mental Health Week was one designed by our students!
Earlier in the year, two of our grade six students had decided to run a social experiment at school: every day, they would hold the doors open for everyone coming in from recess and see how many people would say thank you in return. After realizing that the number of times they heard thank you was shockingly low, they decided they wanted to do something to try and help our school community improve its ability to express gratitude.
The students went to the assistant head of school and shared their desire to improve our school. At that point, the head of school suggested that they get involved in organizing a special activity during Health Month’s Mental Health Week.
The kids were incredibly responsible: they set up a meeting time to discuss possible projects and came prepared with a list of ideas! Since there was already a lot of work happening around gratitude, the decision was to focus on a project that would help reduce stress and promote quality family time.
That’s how “No Homework Day” was born.
Instead of just saying that there would be no homework on the Wednesday of Mental Health Week, the students came up with a list of activities families could engage in during the time that would normally be spent doing homework. These activities included:
- Playing board games.
- Going for a walk.
- Reading together.
- Spending time with friends.
- Cooking together.
No homework day was a hit with the student body and didn’t hurt the two grade six students’ popularity levels either. To honour the boys’ commitment to improving our school community, the two students were awarded the “Community Champion Award” at our Athletics Awards ceremony in June.
So that’s it for part three of the Health Month mini-series! I’ll be publishing part four of the series next week in which I will be going over the third theme of this year’s Health Month: Nutrition. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the upcoming posts, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.
If you’re interested in bringing Health Month to your school, be sure to check out the Health Month Teacher Pack in which I have included all of the resources I designed for this year’s initiative (along with parent email templates).Download The Health Month Teacher Pack
Once again, thanks for reading and happy teaching! 🙌
September 24, 2019
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