Marking Mental Health Awareness Week in MCPS
From restorative justice circles and meditation to nature walks and fun runs, MCPS staff and students found lots of fun and interesting ways to recognize Mental Health Awareness Week Nov. 11–15.
There were daily announcements, quotes of the day, therapy dogs, guest speakers and bulletin boards. Some schools held a Random Day of Kindness or Mix It Up Day, where students were encouraged to eat lunch or play during recess with a new friend.
At Highland View Elementary School, students in Grades 3-5 exchanged compliments with each other, and created a compliment chain. Students learned that the best compliments are those that express appreciation for a personality trait. Some of the compliments were read aloud and displayed in classrooms. The purpose of this compliment chain was for students to understand “how strong we are when we stick together and how flimsy we would be if we were apart,” one teacher noted. It also gave students a chance to embrace their strengths and differences, said school counselor Laurie Burney.
At Shady Grove Middle School, students at all grade levels volunteered their time during lunch and after school to write positive affirmations on more than 600 Post-it notes. When students arrived to their first period classes on Friday, they found notes proclaiming “You’re awesome,” “Enjoy the little things” or “I think you’re cool!” stuck to their desks. This event was sponsored by the Student Government Association.
Laytonsville Elementary School marked the week with stuffed animals (to remind us that we are not alone); comfy clothes (to remind us that when things get overwhelming, it’s OK to relax and to take breaks); and wacky clothes (to remind us that it’s OK to be different).
Quince Orchard High School staff learned about mindfulness practices in the classrooms from coordinator Jeff Donald.
At Walter Johnson High School, student photographers took pictures of their peers in the Positivity Photo Booth. Sources of Strength, a nationwide youth suicide prevention program, provided a backdrop and props, and photos ran on a loop in the Student Commons.
Stephen Knolls School hosted several events for staff, as well as students. A volleyball game got staff members up and moving. There was also down time provided, courtesy of the greenhouse, which supports learning for students with multiple disabilities. PEP students plant seeds, water plants, and participate in other hands-on learning activities in the greenhouse. These activities also support social-emotional needs. School-age students use the greenhouse for reading, math and science lessons, and older students use it as part of a work-based learning opportunity.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, a space was reserved for staff to participate in mindfulness activities and yoga, and to connect with nature.