Wellness is top priority for both students and staff at the Kirtland Local Schools. The district’s wellness program is thriving and all grade levels at each building continue to take part in programs and activities this school year. In a partnership with the district’s Wellness Committee, numerous initiatives are taking place in classrooms as well as in homes.
The Wellness Committee, which consists of members of the administration, staff, students, and parents, has met quarterly over the past few years. The committee is always looking for ways to promote wellness for all stakeholders, which aligns with the district’s strategic plan of promoting healthy choices for students.
Kirtland Elementary School
At Kirtland Elementary School (KES), students are being introduced to many different wellness experiences. Teachers and counselors lead daily, weekly and monthly meetings and activities to foster healthy relationships, identify and regulate their students’ feelings, and develop positive classroom culture. Collaborating in smaller groups of children, there are discussions center around friendship, grief and loss, anxiety, and behavior. KES teachers are also encouraged to be mindful of their wellness. Each professional development day begins with a menu of choices. They enjoy walking, yoga, morning meditation, and some even choose pickleball. This provides an energizing opportunity before they begin working on the many goals they have set.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
Each month, students take part in all-school meetings to support ongoing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a system of teaching and rewarding students for their positive behavior and positive choices. An example is the new ticket/trophy initiative. Students are rewarded with tickets for positive behavior, specifically as they show/portray the HORNET (Hardworking, Open Minded, Respectful, Engaged and Trustworthy) trait of the month. For example in February, if teachers see students being respectful, they give them tickets. The tickets get added to their class bucket and at the end of the month, they draw individual prize winners and a class to house the trophy. All staff members are included in this initiative so that students understand the value of positive behavior not only in the classroom, but in the lunchroom, on the playground and in the hallways.
Students also take part weekly in Walking Wednesdays where all kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers are encouraged to take their students out of their classrooms for a brain break. They continue to track their steps and some even keep track as a class. They walk on the track, around the campus and playground. The playground features activity zones with prompts like pushups, Hornet Jacks, or obstacle courses. S
tudents also participate in movement breaks incorporated during the morning announcements. KES also does fundraising in a healthy manner by conducting a Walkathon each in the fall. The communicating event involves students and family memes walking together on the track before a home Friday football game. The funds raised this school year will go toward purchasing fitness equipment for the students.
Finding Connections Among Peers
Another ongoing program is ‘lunch bunches,’ which allows the students to continue to build positive relationships and connections among themselves. Students also take part in peer meditations which teaches them healthy communication and conflict resolution skills. Kirtland High School’s peer leadership students also visit the elementary students and work on various activities with them throughout the year.
On the walls of the hallways and classrooms, both students and staff are inspired by posters reinforcing kindness. A sensory path has recently been added to the KES hallways. Students can stop along the vinyl path cutouts to do jumping jacks, wall push-ups, or even walk along the dinosaur tracks. Students always enjoy the kindness reminders they hear daily on the morning announcements, too. When a student needs a break, they can spend some time in the “Zen Den” room which provides a calming environment.
There are several wellness initiatives throughout the year that KES students participate in like Start with Hello Week, Red Ribbon Week, Socktober, P.S. I Love You Week, Say Something Week (4th and 5th grade), Career Month, and Autism Awareness Month.
Kirtland Middle and High School
Collaborating with peers is a key component to helping students with their wellness at Kirtland Middle School (KMS) and Kirtland High School (KHS). The sixth and eighth-grade students participate in a peer mentoring program where the eighth graders mentor the sixth graders. Peer Leaders also work with ninth-graders on stress management. These partnerships with peers, in addition to many activities, programs and lessons offered by the schools, are helping teach how to live healthy.
For physical wellness at the middle school, all students receive 20 minutes of REC every day to encourage them to get up and move. If the weather is good and the field is dry, then REC happens outside. KMS also focuses on mental health by asking students to complete a survey identifying their stressors. School Counselor, Mr. Greg Bell, meets with those students who are flagged for follow-up, and a check-up meeting occurs to assist in lowering their stress and anxiety. Results from the survey are also used to find ways to make improvements within the school.
Wellness Class Elective
Throughout the school day, Kirtland students are offered a wellness class elective. This course focuses on weightlifting technique and programing, along with nutrition and stress management. The goal of this course is to create healthy and fit students that use the lessons learned to improve their quality of life after high school.
At KHS, there is a high percentage of students who participate in athletics, marching band, and other extracurricular activities that allow them to get moving during the day. Teachers also consistently provide movement breaks during their classes to help students reset and get some steps around the building.
Sources of Strength
Another initiative at KHS is a focus on Sources of Strength programming. During Sources of Strength Week there are school-wide stretch breaks and breathing exercises, creating a go-to playlist, mindfulness exercise foldables, hot chocolate and tea breaks, thank you notes to our mentors, wall of affirmations, and positive friends activity.
KMS celebrated Bullying Awareness Month in October with lessons that focused on creating an anti-bullying school where students stand up for and advocate for each other. Kindness Week and World Kindness Day celebrations focused on teaching students about the impact that one positive deed can have on others as it creates a chain reaction of kind acts. Students also were encouraged to develop an “attitude of gratitude” where students reflect on what they are thankful for and take time to acknowledge it. Two other awareness campaigns that students will be involved in include vaping awareness and suicide prevention and awareness.
During Unity Week there is a scavenger hunt of connections with students and staff, sources of strength chain, and all school yoga. Students also participate in a Gratitude/Thankfulness Challenge where the students write a thirty day thankfulness journal with daily sharing and an all school thanksgiving activity. “Helps Me Week” featured an activity where students made their own aromatherapy bracelets and stress balls, a What Helps Me Wall, and all school yoga event. Another sources of Strength activity is All School “Pal”etines Day and show you care activities.
Other school-wide campaigns throughout the year including Start with Hello Week, Red Ribbon Week, and P.S. I Love You Day.
KMS and KHS also partners with outside organizations like Crossroads Health, Laurelwood Hospital, LifeAct Mental Health Presentation, LifeBanc Organ Donation, and NAMI Ending the Silence presentations.
The District Wellness Club has been on the move in 2023. The staff participated in a walking challenge throughout January. Participants that logged steps for an entire week were entered into weekly raffl/es for Kirtland merchandise paid by Medical Mutual and prepared by the clothing guru, Bob Lasecki. Staff members played wellness BINGO in February. Exercise for 30 minutes? Sleep 8 hours? Drink 8 glasses of water? Read for 20 minutes? Walk with a friend? BINGO! Over 50 BINGO cards have been submitted weekly. The wellness club will turn into a book club in the spring.