Seattle Girls’ School approaches the learning and growth of its students in a holistic manner, and its Adventure + Wellness program is a key component of that. The program’s goal is to have SGS students develop comfort and confidence in who they are and what they are capable of physically, emotionally, and in relationship to others. They learn the importance of prioritizing their own health and wellbeing, and develop the skills to do so. The program has been led for the past ten years by faculty member Hannah McHugh, who continues to evolve and grow the program: “No two years of A+W have been the same,” she recalled.
Because the program touches on everything from play and movement to body image, gender identity, sexual orientation, and consent, building trust and relationships early on between students is a key component of A + W. Through play and games, teamwork, communication, and learning to advocate for yourself are themes emphasized in the curriculum. This provides the foundation for students to talk about intimacy and body stereotypes later on in the year. This “trust allows for vulnerable conversations on tough topics,” said Hannah. Together, the students can learn to support one another and contradict negative messages about bodies that they may see in society.
Trust and communication also extends to the home. Another important piece of A+W is getting the parents involved. Students’ homework assignments can be to talk to their adults at home about a variety of age-appropriate topics, from something as easy as “Who were your friends at my age?” to “What are your views on dating?” The goal is gets kids to practice initiating these sometimes awkward conversations with their adults, and for parents/guardians to share what their values are on certain subjects such as dating and relationships.
Despite the limitations of the current pandemic, Hannah has strived to bring a variety of instructors from all around the world to teach students over Zoom different ways they can stay active at home. The brain science that movement and activity can spark better academic outcomes is also an important component of the program, as well as practicing mindfulness during these tougher times. Ultimately, “I want students to hold on to that zest for life as long as possible,” said Hannah. In introducing this wide range of ideas and topics during the middle school years, the A+W program prepares its students to better navigate the world in their high school years and beyond.