July 7, 2014

Elementary Wellness Month Activities

Throughout the school year, my school likes to organize themed months. From Nutrition Month to Reading Month, these themed months made our school environment a lot of fun and full of learning.

This year, I decided I wanted to organize my own themed month. After becoming obsessed with my Jawbone UP stats, my original idea was to organize different activities to help students track different statistics relating to their health. However, upon further reflection, I decided that “Quantified Self Month” didn’t have the right ring to it (especially considering that some of my students still can’t tie their shoes… which have velcro laces… c’mon kindergarten!)

That being said, I decided to go with “Wellness Month”. My new idea was to provide students with activities, tools, and prompts to help them develop healthy lifestyle habits. The month was a success and I thought it would be cool to share with you how it came to be!

Part One: The Plan

Because wellness has so many different components (some of which we had covered in earlier themed months this year), I wanted to have each week within my Wellness Month program have its own theme. The four themes I decided to go with were: Hydration, Exercise, Mindfulness, and Sleep.

When you’re trying to pitch a school-wide activity to your administration, making sure to put together a good proposal is an important first step. Since this activity wasn’t going to require any kind of budget, my Wellness Month proposal was pretty simple. However, I wanted to make sure it caught the eye of my principal and made it hard for her to say “No” to (mind you, she’s pretty cool and rarely says no).

You can view my Wellness Month proposal here (click the image below):

Just a quick note on proposals: they’re worth it. This one was more of an informational pamphlet than an actual proposal, but I still took the time to make it as complete as possible. Take the time, do the work, and make it impossible for people to say no to your ideas.

Part Three: Hydration Week

The first weekly theme for Wellness Month was hydration.

The goal here was to help students track how much water they were drinking throughout the day and teach them the importance of staying properly hydrated.

Students were encouraged to bring a 500ml water bottle to school and I provided each student with three elastic bands (by the way, does anybody need a ton of elastic bands?) The idea was to have students mark one band as their baseline and place all three bands on the water bottle, keeping the baseline band on top. Every time a student drank their bottle of water, they got to go refill it and place one of their bands above the baseline band. Students aimed to have both bands above the baseline by the end of the school day.

Side note: it was the classroom teachers’ request to only have the students drink 1L of water each day. Something about ridiculously high amounts of bathroom breaks…

I thought it was also important to let the students know that every body needs different amounts of water, and that one of the best ways to see if your body is getting enough water is to look at the colour of your urine (which caused a lot of giggling). To help the students check the colour of their urine, I created these little charts which we put in the bathrooms within our school (you can click the chart to download it):

Just to let you know, I designed this little pee chart based off of an awesome infographic by the Cleveland Clinic. I originally wanted to print out the infographic and put that up in the washrooms, but it didn’t quite fit on any papers we could print on at school. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s pretty cool!

Finally, I also made this chart to keep track of the total amount of water we had been drinking as a school (click the image to download it). It was posted above the water fountains in the hall (there’s only one hall at my school, we’re pretty small).

To help me fill out the chart, I assigned a couple of grade 6 students to go around each classroom at the end of the day to see how much water everyone had consumed. These “hydration managers” used an iPad to fill out a Google Form as they completed their survey. Google Forms being Google Forms, the information was all sent to my Google Drive and automatically calculated so that I could easily complete the chart each morning.

Part Four: Exercise Week

The second week of Wellness Month put an emphasis on physical activity levels.

I gave each student a little chart to help them track the amount of physical activity they were engaging in.

Our goal was to try to get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. When I visited each of the classrooms to hand out the charts, we talked about what it meant to be physically active. The students agreed that for physically activity to count, you should get a little sweaty doing it, your breathing should get heavier, and your heart rate should increase. For every ten minutes that the students engaged in that kind of activity level, they got to fill in a slice of that day’s pie. This time could be accumulated during daycare, recess, physical education, after school activities, or, even better, at home with their family.

To help give students a boost during the week, and to make this whole school activity as fun as possible, I organized a 30 minute physical activity for the entire school each day. Here’s what we did:

Monday: Going for a run

I wanted to keep our first day very simple, so on Monday the entire school went out to the yard and we went on a run together. Students were encouraged to run at their own pace, but to keep in mind the criteria we had all set for physical activity: get a little sweaty doing it, breathing should get heavier, and heart rates should increase.

After 30 minutes, we all went back into our classrooms and fill out our activity charts (I kept mine on the door of my office).

Tuesday: FitStar Training

Earlier this year, I discovered an awesome new fitness training app called FitStar.

FitStar is full of great workouts that require little equipment (actually most require no equipment) and little space (about the space of a yoga mat) to complete. The workout videos are amazing and former NFL start Tony Gonzalez provides you with feedback/tips as you move through each exercise.

Using my PE projector and screen, I invited the entire school into the gym to compete the “Good Morning” workout. The students had a ton of fun and the teachers were a big help in going around and making sure everyone was exercising with the proper technique.

Afterwards, I even had students come see me to ask if we could complete more FitStar workouts as an after school activity. What do you think I said? Later that week, some students even told me that their parents had downloaded the app and that they were working out as a family at home. That’s a win in my books!

Wednesday: Yoga

For about a year now, my girlfriend and I have been doing yoga at home using the very awesome Yoga Studio app. I’ve even used the app in my physical education classes as part of our fitness units and stress management units.

That’s why I decided to include Yoga Studio in our Wellness Month activities. As a school, we completed a 30-minute beginner session focusing on balance.

The students and staff enjoyed it (although it might have been the noisiest yoga session in history) and I was really happy to hear that, again, students had convinced their parents to download the app so that they could practice at home as a family.

Thursday: Just Dance

This was, by far, the hit of the week.

Even though my school’s gym isn’t equipped with any video game consoles, that didn’t mean we couldn’t play this awesome game altogether. Just Dance videos are really easy to find on YouTube, and who cares if you’re not keeping score? The dancing is so much fun that no one even noticed. Here’s my (and the students’) favourite video:

I find most of the videos we use off of YouTube. To prevent any wildly frustrating slow internet problems, I downloaded the videos we were going to be dancing to using ClipConverter’s website.

Is this the right way to go about it? Who knows? All I care about is that it worked, the kids were active, and that they want to keep staying active.

Friday: Big Games

So I’m not going to lie: it rained on Friday and we did Just Dance again. However, the original plan was to organize big games outside that the students would cycle through.

One of the games I wanted to play was Whiz Tag, which involves a lot of running and cross-curricular competencies. Here’s a video explaining the game:

Part Five: Mindfulness Week

The third part of Wellness Month focused on helping students develop mindfulness.

To do this, we initiated the students to guided meditation using one of my favourite apps: Headspace (which just released an awesome new version of their app/website). Headspace has a great, free 10-minute daily program called “Take 10”, which is what we used with our students.

I installed the Headspace app on each of our classroom teachers’ iPad and loaded up the Take 10 sessions. At a specific time each day, we would announce the start of the meditation sessions and classes would have a minute or so to stop everything they were doing and listen to that day’s Take 10 session through their classroom’s SMART board.

Prior to starting the initial meditation session, each student was given a Mindful Checkin chart (click the image to download the PDF):

Each day on the chart has graphics representing four levels in three different areas: mood, focus, and level of stress. Before starting the meditation session, students would circle where they were at in each area. After the meditation session, the students would then colour in the graphic where they felt they were now and compare the before and after levels for each area.

The goal here was to have students see if meditation could be used as a tool to help improve their mood, sharpen their focus, and relieve any stress they were feeling. I was really happy to find out that, although it wasn’t for everyone, a lot of our students really enjoyed meditation and wanted to continue the Take 10 program at home!

Part Six: Sleep Week

The final week of Wellness Month focused on the importance of sleep.

At the end of week three, I visited every classroom and talked to them about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. We also talked about little things you can do to help guarantee that you get a good night’s sleep: bathing/showering before bed, making our bed in the morning, having a clean room, etc.

Students were then provided with sleep charts that they bring home to help them track their sleep throughout the fourth and final week of Wellness Month (click on the image to download the sleep chart):

To fill out their sleep chart, every morning students would have to write in what time they went to bed at the night before and what time they woke up at in the morning. Once that information was entered, they got to calculate the total amount of hours they slept and colour in one square for each hour (their goal was to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night). I also asked the students to circle the graphic that best represented their mood in the morning to help them visualize how more/better sleep can help improve your mood.

Sleep week was a success and, every morning, students were excited to tell me how much sleep they got. It was the perfect way to end the Wellness Month activities at our school!

Part Seven: Reflections

So there a few things I would do differently next time I run this activity (and my school already told me they want it to happen again next year!):

1. Spend more time informing the classroom teachers.

Because a lot of the Wellness Month activities take place outside of PE time, it’s so important to get the classroom teachers on board and willing to help out. I found that I didn’t take the right amount of time to explain the “why” behind each week’s theme and that I should have had the classroom teachers more involved in the planning process.

As a teacher, you’re part of a team… be a great teammate!

2. Get parents involved.

It would have been great to have held more after-school sessions with the parents to help them better understand the importance of living well. Also, I’d love to have a dedicated blog to the Wellness Month activities where I could add links, tips, videos, and resources to help parents create a wellness-focused living environment at home for their kids.

3. Get the community involved.

I really should have spent the time reaching out to community organizations that could have come in the run some of the Wellness Month activities. Yoga studios, fitness centres, even local nutritionists… anything that the students and their families could have used to continue living well long after Wellness Month was done.

So that was my wellness-themed month! It was a lot of fun writing this blog post, as it gave me a chance to reflect on what was truly a highlight for me this past year. If you run something similar in your school, of if this post helped spark any ideas, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Thank you so much for reading this very long post and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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