The Rowland Foundation

2018 Rowland Fellow
Lissa Knauss, Montpelier High School

Social, Emotional, & Physical Wellness in the Digital Age

An increase in adolescent anxiety, depression, and digital addiction is a concerning reality nationwide and unfortunately at Montpelier High School we are observing no exception to these trends in deteriorating mental health. It is my belief that the skills for living in a healthful manner, including emotional, social, and physical wellness, are important 21st century skills. My goal is to create an integrated, proactive plan for helping students learn and achieve the benefits of wellness practices. Wellness is widely considered more than being free from illness. It is an active process that includes continued growth and change while making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. It is my hope that this Rowland fellowship will help Montpelier High School develop healthy practices for emotional, social, and physical wellness and help turn the tide on the increased mental health issues many of our students are experiencing.

With the generous support of the Rowland Foundation, I plan to work with a wide array of stakeholders, from the head of food service and teachers, to parents and students. Colleagues who also value teaching and inspiring our students to adopt healthy mind and body practices will be included in the project planning and implementation. Together we will create an integrated wellness theme that offers opportunities for learning and practicing the skills in each aspect of emotional, social, and physical wellness.

The focus on emotional wellness will include mindfulness practice and digital moderation. My working definition of mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, including what is happening with our thoughts and feelings, in our bodies, and in the world around us. This noticing of our experiences in the present moment is paired with mental calmness, composure, and a withholding of judgment. Emotional wellness will be pursued through multiple options for mindfulness practice throughout the school (e.g., meditation, gratitude practice, mindful movement, mindful poetry writing and journaling).

Social wellness practices will include an emphasis on community building and empathy education. Working with student leaders to help in the implementation of activities that promote community and social inclusion will be a critical component. These wellness ambassadors will help fulfill many roles: welcoming new students to the school, editors of a wellness newsletter, event planners for a wellness fair, and leaders of mindfulness activities.

Finally, physical wellness will include an emphasis on nutrition and outlets and incentives for regular physical activity.

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