One of the most important changes that has occurred in schools over the last couple of decades is the rising awareness of the school's role in educating its students about health and wellness — both mental and physical. Burroughs has increasingly embraced this role by expanding the Counseling and Wellness Department to include two full-time counselors and a health education specialist, coordinating health surveys to better understand the practices of our students, and working hard to put together what is, I believe, one of the most comprehensive and responsive programs in the country.
Over the course of six years, our students are intentionally engaged in discussions around a range of topics to help them make informed decisions about their health and wellness. Here's a synopsis:
In the seventh grade, every student takes a six-week health and wellness unit that includes transitioning to Burroughs, changes accompanying puberty, navigating the social scene at school and in social media, principles of good nutrition, the importance of adequate sleep, stress management and relaxation techniques, and accessing support systems at Burroughs. A second round of orientation classes empowers students to confront social cruelty and bullying.
In the eighth grade, all students along with their parents participate in "Conversations That Count" to learn and dialogue about the risks of underage use of alcohol and other drugs. All eighth graders see the eating disorders play, "The Thin Line," and participate in a panel discussion afterward. Students also view the documentary "Finding Kind" and participate in discussions about strategies to stop relational aggression.
In the ninth grade, we have a required semester-long health course focused on time management, sleep habits, substance abuse prevention, body image and eating issues, media images and sexuality, safe use of technology, gender identity, safety and sexual harassment.
In the tenth grade, we offer the health afternoon including a presentation by Scott Deken (principal of grades 9 and 10), who has a doctorate in neurobiology, on the impact of substance abuse on developing brains, complemented by small-group discussions with area experts on substance abuse and chemical dependency.
In the eleventh grade, the junior health day includes topics such as sports psychology, sex education, relaxation strategies, nutrition and body image, healthy relationships, and alcohol and other drug use. Later in the year, we have a sexual assault awareness workshop and the "Keeping the Conversation Going" program around substance abuse.
In the twelfth grade, the senior wellness day offers seminars focused on preparing students for college life. Among the options offered are sessions on personal safety on campus, healthy lifestyle choices at college, dealing with the drug and alcohol scene on campus, dorm life, sexual safety, and yoga and relaxation. Before the end of the school year, a Burroughs alum speaks to the class about his/her decision to remain sober while at college.
Our professional team which developed this curriculum also partners with Family Network and student groups to offer programming and events throughout the year. Not to be missed will be an April program featuring educator Michael Riera, author of six books including Staying Connected to Your Teenager and Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers, who will meet with parents and faculty about communicating with teenagers. I look forward to seeing you there.