Teacher gives insight on mental health-focused class

Jackson Parks

claire mccarthy art1
Art by Claire McCarthy

Kinetic Wellness is a new course for the 2021-22 school year. The physical education class differs from the usual gym class, as it is structured around mental health and the positive effects that movement can have. 

The class is given for a semester and earns a half credit.

Physical education teacher Evyn Spencer, who teaches the class, started it in a joint effort with principal Dr. Matt Irvin. 

“Dr. Irvin came to me and said, ‘Hey, I’d really like to incorporate this kind of class, and I think that you’d be interested,’ and I was like ‘you are 100 percent correct.’ I am a big believer in working smarter not harder throughout your life, and I think a big part of that is learning how to take care of your brain, and a lot of people don’t understand how your body’s movement affects your brain,” Spencer shared.

The class was a joint effort of Spencer and Irvin — building a new class from the ground up.

“It was a really collaborative thing between me and Dr Irvin. Him and I worked together, and we went through a lot of research. I interviewed some other teachers, and I went on some wellness experiments and things like that. I read some awesome books about everything, and then we worked together to create the curriculum for the class,” Spencer explained.

Kinetic Wellness is not the average PE class. It’s very game-heavy and allows for student freedom. The class also features lessons pertaining to mental health and skills.

Spencer said, “The idea was PE for kids who may not like traditional PE but need the movement. Also, it was a big thing of ‘what are some things that these kids can take with them from this class that will help them for the rest of their lives?’”

About what is taught in the class, Spencer explained, “The Kinetic Wellness class is basically a movement-based class, so there is quite a bit of movement. There are lessons on things like mental health and that includes things like: how to cope with stress; how to cope with anxiety; what academic burnout is, and why it happens and how to prevent it and how to recover from it, which is a very real thing; dealing with grief; what’s normal and what’s not normal when it comes to your emotions; connecting with your mind and understanding why you’re upset with somethings.” 

To sum it up, “The whole idea in the class is ‘Let’s get some movement, let’s get some understanding of why it’s helping us, and let’s do some activities to help our brain even further,’” Spencer said.

Spencer suggested to students why they should take the class.

“Well, besides the obvious and that it’s the best class ever, I think a lot of students would benefit from it. I think that the chances of a student not benefiting from it is zero, so I think every student in every grade would benefit. If students take it, they’ll have a better understanding of their brain, what’s going on inside of it, how to work with it and not against it. You also just learn a lot of life skills that apply outside of school that you’ll use for the rest of your life,” Spencer offered.

Although Spencer may love the class, she is not the only one who enjoys it. Students have taken the class without Spencer’s suggestion.

Senior Sadie Coalier said, “I liked Kinetic Wellness, because we got to learn about things as well as do physical activities and how they coexist. It’s important to keep yourself healthy and your mind healthy, and you can’t have one without the other.”

Junior Sydney Thornton explained how the class relieved her of the stress of a normal school day.

“I enjoyed Kinetic Wellness because it gave me a good in between in my day to reflect on the stress of school and give me good tools to deal with this stress. It was a good break in the day. It would give me the chance to move after sitting all day, whether we could go on walks outside or do activities in the gym,” Thornton said. 

Junior Ella Bene valued what is taught in the class.

“I really enjoyed Kinetic Wellness because schools don’t normally teach about mental health struggles and how to cope with life and high school. We were taught about things that no one had ever really talked about. Not only did we learn about anxiety and depression, but we still moved around quite a bit; we were taught about how the movements we were doing helped us physically and mentally, which was really eye opening,” Bene said.

“I felt it was a safe environment for students with their own struggles. I think all schools should teach their students about what they’re going through and really let them know that they’re not alone,” Bene said.

Jackson Parks – Editor-in-Chief

This will be Jackson Parks’ second year on ECHO staff, but he made several contributions while taking journalism class his sophomore year. He served as Junior Editor his first year on staff.

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