Taking Care of Ourselves: Health, Wellness, and High Meadows

Many schools talk about addressing the needs of the "whole child." But what exactly does that mean? 

At High Meadows, we believe it is critical to strengthen every aspect of a child's well-being--academic, social, emotional, and physical. We feel strongly that leading children to make good life choices with regard to their overall health and wellness--from exercise to nutrition to the quieting of the mind--makes them better people. And our concern for one's well-being doesn't end with the child; we also care deeply about the health and wellness of our faculty, staff, and parent community.
Here are just a few of the health and wellness practices we have adopted or refined in the past year:
  • Our teachers practice mindfulness in their classrooms, which teaches children relaxation and self-management;
  • Our regular cooking classes have taken a sharper focus on teaching kids about the benefits of good nutrition;
  • Our children spend an ample amount of time outdoors breathing fresh air, running, and playing;
  • Many of our staff members benefit from yoga classes and massage therapy sessions on our campus.
As our initiatives have taken root, they have received well-deserved attention in professional publications such as Edutopia and Independent School Magazine, as well as in news sources like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Clearly, the world is taking notice that a healthy person is a thriving person. And I am proud that High Meadows is working diligently to help all members of our community to thrive.

Take care,
Jay's signature

Jay Underwood
Head of School

"Eat Your Vegetables!" How Gardening and Cooking Encourage Healthy Eating
By Sarah Bobbitt, Pre-K Teacher

Pre-K students plant Swiss Chard

As a mother of two young daughters and a Prekindergarten teacher, I spend the majority of my day with young children. Two of my favorite activities to experience with both my students and my children are cooking and gardening. Both create positive (and fun) learning experiences that teach independence and creativity, as well as fine motor and math skills, among many others. But perhaps most importantly, gardening and cooking encourage children from toddlers through adolescence to try new and healthy foods. Cardiologist Arthur Agatson explains, "What kids grow, they will eat!" I take it a few steps further: "Grow it, care for it, harvest it, cook it, and love it!"

Because a connection to healthy food is the best way for young children to trust that it is safe to eat, we include cooking and gardening as part of the weekly Pre-K curriculum. This year our class has planted, cared for, and harvested a variety of fall vegetables. The children enjoyed salad greens to compliment a Thanksgiving-themed meal, and we prepared pesto and smoothies with the Swiss chard we had carefully picked. (See the recipes).

Cooking with our Swiss Chard

In the garden, young children can help plant, water, and harvest fruits and vegetables. As they grow older, they can research foods that will grow in their garden and plan recipes to use their harvest. In the kitchen, young children can help measure, pour, mix, cut, scrape, and clean. As they get older, they can help plan meals. Involving children in the meal-making process turns what can be a stressful daily task into a positive activity. Cooking and gardening also provide the foundation for our children to be healthy and care for themselves when they "leave the nest."

For more ways to get your family healthy this year, follow HMS Wellness on Pinterest.
Yoga Tuesdays: Supporting Staff Wellness
By Allison Stanley, Support Teacher & Yoga Instructor

Ms. Stanley practicing yoga

Students giggle with glee as they gather up their belongings and head out to carpool. Not long after the last child leaves, you can hear the sound of sticky mats unfolding. Today is "Yoga Tuesday," an after-school yoga practice for High Meadows teachers and staff. Some of the yogis unfolding their mats have been with the group since it began in 2012. Others "drop-in" according to the flexibility of their schedule. They weave in and out of the group throughout the year, and each time they return to their mats, there is a sigh of relief as if "coming home." Bodies have changed, the breath has become a friend, and there is a growing awareness that a commitment to self-care is transformative. In yoga we find relief from the superficial demands of the day. 

For teachers, who spend their days caring for others, yoga has the potential to bestow a greater sense of physical and mental balance. The practice of yoga involves meditation, asana (yoga poses) and pranayama practices (deep belly breathing). Research shows that a regular yoga routine allows caregivers--whose personal well-being is often put on hold-- time to let go and focus on themselves. Yoga relieves stress, improves balance and coordination, increases core stability and helps increase bone density. Anxiety and chronic low back pain can be reduced or eliminated with a regular practice. Practicing yoga increases our ability to leave the day behind and transition into our evening, more able to focus on our loved ones.
Each week, we unfold our mats and practice together to release our day and inhale calm. The intention in yoga is to unify the body, breath and mind. We then roll our mats up and drive home, relaxed, renewed and restored. 
Integrating Wellness into the Education for Sustainability (EfS) Classroom
By Michelle Griffin, EfS Teacher

Students explore the woods in EfS

Students arrive at my door, choose a seat on the rug and enjoy low-volume chatting. I take my seat among them and begin the ritual of calling each child's name. They respond with a non-verbal "thumbs up, middle or down." From consistent practice, we all know this communicates if they are feeling good, ok, or bad.

We gather at the door to review our essential agreements associated with field work. Keeping ourselves safe while respecting our natural world quickly becomes an intuitive part of each member in our school community. We step outside and stop to take a deep, centering breath. I ask a few students how it feels to breathe in the cold air: 
"My lungs are shocked!"
"Aaahhh....that smells so good!"
And from one student, I hear, "Thanks, trees! Keep pumping it out and I'll keep breathing it in!"

We pass the climbing wall and emerge at the vegetable and butterfly gardens. While we notice remnants of kale and collards, most edibles have been harvested. We stop for a moment, and I ask, "What do you remember from harvesting and eating the food from your bed?":
"I remember I do not like collards!"
"I remember making kale chips, then going home and begging my mom to make more. It's my new favorite snack."

We leave the garden for a brisk walk up and around the high meadow. I ask the students to wonder as they walk, "How do wild animals find food in the winter?" As we circle the edge of the meadow and skirt the edge of the pond, we pause again. I ask the students to close their eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to the sound of the small waterfall in the pond. I ask them to recall at least one thought around our "I wonder" of how wild animals find food in the winter.

Eyes open, and I ask a few students to share their thoughts. Because so many want to share, I suggest they take their thoughts back to class and use them as a writing prompt in their journals. Some of the ideas lead to what we will do at our next class: create animal-friendly edible garlands to hang in the trees around campus. Taking action with acquired knowledge is another intuitive trait of our longer-term students. We take one more calming deep breath as I remind them to carry their current "alert-yet-calm" mindset to the next class. 

A student's most productive waking hours are gifted to classroom teachers. With that opportunity comes a responsibility to model and guide a well-balanced and healthy life. We teachers look for ways to weave healthy habits into the ever-expanding fabric of our curriculum because we know it's the little habits formed early and over many years that lead to a healthy life.
Being Well in the New Year

By Lori Knight, RN, High Meadows Nurse

Nurse Lori Knight encourages frequent hand washing

The new year is a time for contemplating the changes that we want to make in our lives. Although many new year's resolutions focus on health, consider taking a holistic approach and resolve to be more mindful of your overall wellness this year. Wellness is not just the absence of illness; wellness is living your best life. How do you imagine your best life? What steps can you take to stay healthy in order to live your best life? Small changes in diet, exercise and hygiene can make large differences in your health.
  • Good nutrition is vital to good health. Forget crash and fad diets--optimum nutrition is found in a varied diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of restricting calories and excluding food groups, resolve to increase your fruits and vegetables at every meal. Take the time to be mindful of your eating habits. Be good to yourself by eating food that is good for you.         
  • Regular exercise is equally important to maintain a state of wellness. However, you can be active without an extreme workout regimen. Engaging in recreation that you enjoy on a regular basis benefits you physically and lifts your spirits. Make physical activity a part of your family's lifestyle. Consider kicking a soccer ball or shooting baskets with the kids. A college professor once told me that, in order for people to be happy, everyone needs "something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to." Planning an active pastime that you enjoy with others can fulfill all three of these needs. 
  • Hand washing continues to be the easiest and most effective way to prevent illnesses. Resolve to properly wash your hands, and emphasize the importance of hand washing to your children. Proper hand washing involves creating lots of suds and rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds. Kids can be told to sing "Happy Birthday" while they scrub to be sure that they are washing long enough.
Improving your health doesn't have to be difficult or drastic. My grandmother says, "You don't have to do a lot, just do something." Resolve to do something to improve your wellness this year. You can take small steps that can make a big impact on your family's well-being. Here's to a healthy and Happy New Year!
Apply Now for 2017-2018 Admission to High Meadows

Our online application for the next school year is now available for Pre-K through 8th grade! Click here to learn more about the application process, upcoming events, and to set up your account with Ravenna Solutions--our online admission system.

Have questions about admission? Email Director of Admission Laura Nicholson or call her at 678-507-1170.

The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

(770) 993-2940 | www.highmeadows.org

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High Meadows School | 1055 Willeo Road | Roswell | GA | 30075