First student experiences in the Wellness Studies Program at four NJ middle schools bring favorable assessment
A survey of middle school students attending four schools in Cumberland County NJ who participated in the spring 2019 semester in our Wellness Studies Program showed significant improvement in their appreciation for several health-improving factors that are part of the curriculum.
The survey was conducted by the regional offices of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (21st CCLC), which is funded by the US Dept. of Education through local school districts. Program director Cynthia Angelo engaged the independent evaluation firm LinchPin Solutions of Mt. Laurel, NJ to conduct pre- and post-participation evaluation surveys among students who participated in the after-school programs. We were very gratified to read their conclusion:
“Overall, across every domain, students reported more knowledge, increased positive behavior, and more self-awareness, from pre- to post- surveys. The CEZ 21st CCLC Health and Wellness Program appears to have made a significant difference for the participants of this project.”
(CEZ = Cumberland County Empowerment Zone)
“Across every domain” is key, as it reflects our core vision for wellness learning: blending multiple wellness activities into a unified learning program. As noted by P.J. Ragone, of the Inspira Health Network and leader of the fitness workshops:
“What I appreciate most about the program is that it doesn’t just address one aspect of wellness. This program allowed me to educate the students on proper nutrition, physical activity as well as mental health.”
The after-school programs included mindfulness, nutrition and food preparation, fitness and PE, and outdoor and nature learning. Each month of the semester focused on a workshop that introduced students and faculty to these concepts and activities in the sustainable, mindful whole-health framework for which we advocate.
Lakeside Middle School in Millville was the first to adopt the Wellness Studies Program for its in-school programs. When we were later approached by 21st CCLC, Lakeside and three other middle schools added the curriculum to their after-school enrichment programs. These were the first implementations of a semester-length blended wellness curriculum of which we are aware (but we would be glad to hear of any others!).
Not only was the 21st CCLC Evaluation of the after school programs so favorable, Lakeside Middle will implement the Wellness Studies Program into its school days for both semesters of the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.
The after-schools programs concluded the semester with a Wellness Fair and field party held on the Cumberland campus of Rowan College of South Jersey in Vineland. Students dropped by to leave their thoughts about wellness, some of which you see in the image to the right.
Their reflections and those of participating providers, although anecdotal, are equally important in helping us understand their experiences with the program and attitudes toward health-influencing activities in which they participate.
The curriculum and a basic evaluation tool were developed by Kate Tumelty Felice, EdD, Director of Programs for WholeHealthED and Education Programs Coordinator, Associate Professor at Rowan College. Dr. Felice included as support during workshop presentations education students from Cumberland College who she dubbed “wellness ambassadors.”
The participation of these students, some of whom may move into their own K-12 classroom assignments, speaks to the long term importance of introducing new teachers to wellness precepts, especially including social and emotional learning, as they become more part of routine K-12 learning.
Pre-survey and post-survey comparisons
The program and assessments were organized around the workshops: Mindfulness, Food Nutrition & Health, Fitness & Movement, Mindfulness & Stress Management; with a “Free-Time Activity” category. A few comparative samples of survey results:
||Food & Nutrition (Wellness in the Schools, NYC)
|Mindfulness (Holistic Life Foundation, Baltimore)
||Nature Learning (Cumberland County, NJ)
“Working with the school wellness program was such a rewarding experience. What I appreciate most about the program is that it doesn’t just address one aspect of wellness. This program allowed me to educate the students on proper nutrition, physical activity as well as mental health. Giving kids the opportunity to feel safe and confident that their teachers care and are willing to listen to them is something we as educators and health care professional should all strive for, and that is what I saw with this program.”
Sports Medicine Director
“The Wellness Program offered to the Lakeside AVID students was engaging, informative, and so necessary for our student population. The curriculum was comprehensive and focused on all aspects of wellness. The students participated in hands-on experiences and left with knowledge and skills that they can apply in real life now and in the future.”
AVID teacher, Lakeside Middle School
“I had the opportunity to attend Lakeside today for a total of four hours and I loved it. The students were really involved in the tasks that they had carried out, from cutting broccoli to mincing garlic, and they all behaved so well. It was a joy to see their excitement! I was just as intrigued and informed and was delighted to learn a healthy meal that I could make at home for my family as well.”
Rowan College of South Jersey Education student
Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society