July 1, 2023 by Taylor Walsh On June 22 we co-hosted with the Harkin Institute a virtual symposium that brought together a unique interdisciplinary group of experts in education, mental health, school health, pediatrics, and whole health learning (WHL) domains. The presentations and discussions emphasized the importance of including those school-based, historically “ancillary” fields in the major national policy conversations and initiatives that have been put in place to address the impact of COVID on children’s mental health. The increasing demand for WHL practices like mindfulness, school gardens, and outdoor learning through the COVID era has presented very positive outcomes for children and faculties as they have gradually re-engaged with schools while their purposes and learning have been challenged from many directions. Our conversations considered how providing much more time for students in these programs can act as that “First Line of Defense,” to fend off and mitigate the stresses and anxieties that have worsened so badly at a time of a great shortfall in the availability of school psychologists and counselors. PRESENTATION VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE The persistence of the COVID era has led also to new roles in pediatric and child health care that focus directly on whole health approaches and outcomes which emphasize prevention and health promotion. These trends, early as they are, suggest closer and re-imagined school-to-healthcare connections that are defined not only by interventions for asthma, overweight or behavioral counseling, but also by whole health learning practices that start to bolster children’s mental health, wellbeing and resilience during their years in school. Participating organizations and professionals have been dedicated to improving children’s health and capabilities, but they have rarely, if ever, found themselves in the same room…virtual or otherwise. A sampling for organizations whose team members registered to attend: Speakers include specialists leading and working in the important and interwoven corners of elementary, middle and high school campuses and the important community-based initiatives that support children and schools: Laura Bakosh, co-founder and director, Inner Explorer, a leading provider of mindfulness practices in schools Wayne Jonas, MD, CEO of the HealingWorks Foundation, whole person, integrative healing approaches to reframe community health and wellbeing collaborations Cathy Jordan, PhD, Research Director, Children & Nature Network, leading national movements for greening schoolyards and city spaces Nathan Larson, School Garden Support Organization, a growing nationwide collaboration of highly experienced school garden innovators; also ED, Restorative Places Lawrence Rosen, MD, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s community-based Human Dimension curriculum Jennifer Sacheck, PhD, Chair, Department of Exercise and Nutrition at the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University Dennis Shirley, EdD, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Co-author of the seminal 2022 book, “Well-being in the Schools” Kate Tumelty Felice, EdD, Faculty and Coordinator of Education Programs at Rowan College of South Jersey Sean Slade, Education Lead, BTS Spark: (previously coordinator of the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) enterprise) Andrea Falken, PhD, Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability at the U.S. Dept. of Education; and coordinator, Green Ribbon Schools. The symposium was organized by Adam Shriver, director of the Wellness & Nutrition Program at The Harkin institute and Taylor Walsh, founder and executive director of WholeHealthED. The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement is located at Drake University and serves as a venue and catalyst for dynamic non-partisan research, learning, and outreach to promote understanding of the policy issues to which Iowa Senator Tom Harkin devoted his career. The Institute was founded on the premise that good public policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants. Happy Serendipitous 5th Birthday to WholeHealthED! “First Line of Defense” just happened to fall during the same week of June when five years ago we hosted WholeHealthED’s inaugural symposium at Georgetown University. We’re happy to note that among colleagues who joined us virtually in 2023, several in the photo below were there at the beginning. Thanks to everyone who helped kick-start us in DC!