50th Edition, Sports

Wellness develops life skills

By Maarten Van-Genabeek
Published: February 2011

By Maarten Van Genabeek, Volume 50
February 15, 2011

As South has gone on and evolved over the past 50 years, the Wellness program has been an important part of the South community and curriculum.
In the early history of the school, however, the program only focused on one aspect of wellness: physical fitness. This was used to help train students for the military to help the war effort.This course continued for 30 years until former Athletic Director Bob Chrusz reformed the physical education program by adding a more complete wellness curriculum. Chrusz added ideas of trust, community building, and social skills to the program.
In 1998, the Wellness program expanded even more to include a wider variety of subjects including community building, verbal skills, life choices, and decision-making. The idea of total wellness, both a physical and an emotional state, was also introduced to the staff and students.
In addition to an expansion to the wellness classes, sexual education was integrated into the wellness program and focused on smart decision making, rather than abstinence. “We wanted to give them all the information they needed so they could make the smart decisions on their own,” Wellness teacher Bill Fagen said.
This was a very progressive step as South had one of the few Wellness programs in the state, if not the country, to include a model of complete wellness. “We used to go to wellness conventions 10, 12, 14 years ago and teach other schools about what we were doing; before that, it was completely unheard of,” Elwell said.
Eight years ago, under Mike Walsh, the Wellness program was changed to add variety to upperclassmen’s classes after finishing their core wellness classes. This variety included the global games, yoga, stress management, and the recently added project adventure. The program has also adopted the idea of total inclusion. “Back in the day, the only goal was to teach fitness, but that was a problem for those who had limited physical ability,” Wellness teacher Amy Aranski said. “We’ve adopted a new approach in the past 15 years to include everyone and promote community building.”
Despite the effectiveness of the wellness curriculum, the Wellness Department hit a major roadblock in 2009 when the school, faced with large budget cuts, decreased the number of wellness teachers in half, from eight teachers to four.
The program, however, is looking towards the future, especially since it received the Carol A. White Physical Education Program grant and the newly installed Project Adventure course.
“The grant saved us,” Fagen said. “It has allowed the wellness program to experience a revival in midst of budgets cuts.”
With the high elements course and the possible inclusion of an anti-bullying curriculum, the Wellness program looks to expand and add more staff members to cope with the workload. “We think the wellness program is experiencing a revival,” Aranski said. “People are starting to see how important the wellness program is.”

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