On Thursday, members of the Archbishop Bergan Catholic School community came out to Bergan Elementary School to celebrate the completion of the school year — and the completion of Bergan’s first year as a pilot school for a new program that incorporates social and emotional learning into a traditional physical education curriculum.
Health Moves Minds is a program sponsored by the Society of Health and Physical Educators. According to Bergan physical education teacher Wyatt Morse, the program aims to teach children about the importance of mental, social and behavioral health.
It’s factored into their physical education classes, and Archbishop Bergan is one of 21 schools across the country that have been piloting the education program.
“There’s not really been a program like this out there, to help get away from that stigma around mental health, and promoting our whole child,” Morse said. “We got lucky enough to be a pilot, and it’s been great so far.”
There are different lessons that go along with each grade up through eighth grade. Kindergartners, first graders and second graders focus on kindness. Third, fourth and fifth graders work on mindfulness. And kids in grades six through eight focus on empowerment.
Morse described the course material as “standards-based, activities-based stuff, getting kids to talk about social and emotional issues.” Each grade goes through four lessons.
Some lessons include teaching kids how to take “a mindful minute,” or to take a deep breath and calm down either before or during a stressful event. Morse said that they encourage children to take these moments when they may be feeling angry or anxious, to help ensure that they refocus before their feelings manifest in a poor choice or action.
Morse said he believes the program is important — in his eight years at Bergan, he felt that he had seen more and more young children who may be struggling with anxiety issues that they didn’t know how to deal with.
Now he hears stories from students who take a “mindful minute”
“I started doing more research on it, and I was like, yeah that’s a real issue and that’s a real thing we need to look into solving,” he said. “Lucky enough, Shape America came out with this program, and it just seemed like it’d be a hit.”
The program started running in May. But on Thursday, Archbishop Bergan Elementary School welcomed students and their parents to a day of games, activities and prizes to help celebrate the completion of the program.
Both the gym inside the school and the outdoor playground area were open to families, and kids and adults alike were invited to take part in teamwork-oriented games. Outside, families could get some food. And in the lobby, a display of raffle prizes, like footballs and volleyballs, a ukelele and more.
Juice Stop was there distributing smoothies, and the American Red Cross was on hand, giving out information about a blood drive at the elementary school, set for next year.
“We’re trying to get the community involved, and get everybody kind of involved and on the same page, and celebrate not only the program but also a great school year,” Morse said. “It gives them some fun things to do and parents hopefully are playing along with them.”
The Health Moves Minds program will return next year, Morse said, though they plan to hold it a little earlier in the school year, beginning in September, to allow it to coordinate with National Bullying Prevention Month in October.
Morse said that parents have been supportive of the program.
“Our parents and our school really support whatever we do, and they’ve been a big supporter of physical education and physical activity in my eight years here,” he said.