Where Wellness Meets Social-Emotional Learning

The 2021–2022 school year started off strong at West Prep Academy (MS421) and PS 145 when Wellness in the Schools helped launch their year with a two-week Social Emotional Learning curricula. We are deeply aligned with our approaches to learning as experiential and integrated into all aspects of life. Kudos to the West Prep and PS 145 leadership for beginning this unique new year with classes and workshops that address not only the academic but also the social-emotional aspect of learning. And, we were honored to join them!

The Wellness in the Schools team spent two days doing what we do best — teaching hands-on culinary and nutrition classes as well as fitness activities. Students were coring apples, seasoning them with cinnamon or nutmeg, and noticing the tartness or sweetness of apple flavors, depending on the variety. The smell of apple sauce was emanating throughout the halls of West Prep and PS 145. In the gym, kids were navigating the great skill of teamwork while playing rugby basketball, helicopter, and Gaga ball — all games that were new to many and therefore “level the playing field”. 

Students were not the only beneficiaries of this experiential learning. Because this was so early in a tentative school year, the Wellness in the Schools team used this opportunity with long-time partners as a training experience. Our new WITS Chefs and WITS Coaches observed and worked alongside our veterans to learn from their peers by watching and doing. And, they are fast learners! Before we knew it, rookie WITS Coach Naika was leading her own Rugby Relay activity while veteran WITS Coach Jamel participated with the kids (he’s a kid at heart). Middle school is not exactly the easiest age to start on your first day, but the support of team members combined with active learning turned Naika into a pro overnight.

In the end, students, school administration, and the Wellness in the Schools team all benefited from the experience provided through social-emotional learning. The skills gained from this type of learning — developing self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and self-control — are vital for success in school and life! West Prep Principal Carland Washington says it best: “As a school community, West Prep prides itself on creating a positive, affirming school culture that is woven into every aspect of the student’s day. Recognizing the need for more social and emotional support for our students during the pandemic, we partnered with Wellness in the Schools to teach our students about healthier food options and to offer structured physical activity to promote their overall wellness. Over a two-day period, WITS provided the school with coaches and chefs to engage and inspire our students, many of whom had not been inside a school building since the pandemic began.”

Even the District 3 Superintendent appreciated our partnership. After her visit (and smelling the apple sauce), she featured West Prep and Wellness in the Schools SEL workshops on the District 3 Website. Thanks to this welcome-back opportunity, we are even more excited to be back in school and to get to cooking and playing.