From Conversation to Curriculum June 30, 2019 by Taylor Walsh Two Key Markers for June 2019: The FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF OUR SUCCESSFUL INAUGURAL SYMPOSIUM held at Georgetown University in Washington. This event brought together for the first time experts who have been providing a variety of wellness programs to K-12 campuses, teachers and program coordinators working those programs, and pediatricians interested in their health outcomes. As leaders in these school and health disciplines in recent years, these folks never had the opportunity to meet and compare their experiences in and around school gardens, mindfulness programs, teaching kitchens and nutrition literacy, cognition-driving exercise and movement, and green and sustainable learning. The END OF THE FIRST SEMESTER in which our pilot Wellness Studies Curriculum The primary byproduct of that unique gathering and developed in the fall of 2018 — was incorporated into daily and after-school programs at four schools in southern New Jersey: Lakeside Middle School, in Millville, NJ; Cherry Street School in Bridgeton; Wallace School in Vineland, and Commercial Township School in Port Norris. Wellness in the Schools’ chef Rebecca brings mindful food preparation to the after-school program of The Wallace School in Vineland NJ. Among our unofficial findings from the semester: Students, faculty and administration are open to, if not enthusiastic about, programs that combine multiple wellness activities: the Wellness Studies program knits together these hands-on, collaborative activities in a mindful, whole-health-learning framework that creates a unified learning experience designed to be sustained across the grades. Partnerships are the key. Our advisor and Director of Programs, Kate Tumelty Felice, a faculty member of Cumberland College (Vineland, NJ) consulted with and engaged several wellness program firms (including those who attended the Symposium) to create the curriculum that forms the backbone for this multi-faceted learning: Wellness in the Schools (WITS) of New York, Holistic Life Foundation of Baltimore; the Inspira Health Network of southwestern New Jersey; Project Little Warriors of Camden and the Cumberland County Improvement Authority which was our primary local partner agency. The collaborative, social qualities of these programs lend themselves to support for the objectives of social and emotional learning (SEL) an increasingly critical factor in efforts to improve school climate and relationships: in states across the country. (New Jersey is a national leader among the states that have joined the Alliance for Social and Emotional Learning in the United States: SEL4US.org ) These programs served some 250 students all told during the semester. Thanks to these innovative leaders who are developing whole health thinking and learning in the schools: Evolving from a conversation in June to a living (and so-the far well received) curriculum in January has been tremendously gratifying, to say the least. So has the word-of-mouth that attracted the local office of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s “21st Century Community Learning” program, which helped fund after-school-enrichment programs for the schools above. Word-of-mouth also reached the New Jersey Dept. of Health, which is funding a multiyear, state-wide effort to bring wellness programming to scores of K-12 schools for 2019-2020. Its primary grantee for Healthy Schools, Healthy Children in south New Jersey, AtlantiCare, has contacted us about possibly participating in this program. Thanks again (and always) to our colleagues who assembled at Georgetown last year to consider the health and wellbeing possibilities – short and long term – of blending these campus-based activities to contribute to community health objectives. It was a great start that has provided the energy and spark to make the first proof-of-concept possible. For more on the participants at WholeHealthED 2018 see the roster here. Foundations for Whole Health Learning A Glimmer Amidst Candidate-Speak Here is a presidential candidate’s policy statement you might not have expected to hear: “Social and emotional learning is imperative to addressing kids’ trauma.” But Ohio representative Tim Ryan has been at the forefront of insisting on expansion of mental health support in K-12 schools for years, and now through SEL. He is the author of “A Mindful Nation.” As he told CNN a few weeks ago: And speaking of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), the U.S. House Appropriations Committee recently advanced an initiative to provide $260 million for SEL program implementation in the schools. Reimbursement for health-creating investments? We are admittedly maniacal about bringing financial incentives into the motivation — policy or otherwise — for building whole health and wellness infrastructure, and for rewarding the investors who direct their resources there, wherever they come from and however much they contribute. How about bee hives? This news from Minnesota could be a harbinger for the serious adjustments needed to reward financial investments where they can truly strengthen health and vitality. Is there a link between thriving bee populations and human health? Minnesota Will Soon Pay for Your Landscaping Costs If You Plant Bee-Friendly Greenery Symposium Partners Mission Thrive Summer begins its Seventh Season in Baltimore Brandin Bowden, Community Programs Director at The Institute for Integrative Health, TIIH, sends this update from the very first K-12 multiple-wellness program, now starting its 7th summer! Mission Thrive “gives Baltimore City high school students the chance to work, learn and grow over the summer months. The five-week program engages in farming, proper nutrition and cooking, mindfulness, physical activity, job skills training, and leadership development. “Since the program began in 2013, more than 155 students have participated in more than 240 hours of cooking that produced 2,350-plus healthy meals. Published assessments report that student participation demonstrates statistically significant improvements in reducing perceived stress and inspiring a desire to eat healthy foods.” Significantly, the program is partnering this year with the University of Maryland Baltimore’s CURE Scholars program, which introduces sixth- to 12th-grade students in Baltimore to competitive, financially and personally rewarding research and health care careers at UMB and other health institutions in the region.