Freshmen Question Sophomore Wellness Requirement

Caroline Champa

Photo illustration purchased from

Rising sophomores will be required to take another semester of Wellness this coming fall, even as freshmen question the success of the existing yearlong offering.

“I enjoyed learning about sleep and nutrition,” Sophia Spring ’22 said about the ungraded course, which meets once per week. “At the beginning of the year, we also learned about how our library works, which I found helpful.”

But Spring also called much of the class “disorganized,” especially when teachers would not show on time, or at all, or class was let out early. Unlike traditional courses, depending on the subject, different teachers were in charge of leading the course depending on their specialty.

“We are aware that there were some scheduling issues this year with 9th grade Wellness, and we are working to improve those for next year,” Upper School Head Joshua Neudel said. “It is one of the challenges of having a course that is taught by different people.”

For a few weeks during the winter cold and flu season, according to Neudel, teachers were out and coverage could not be found.

“But there was a lot covered over the course of the year,” Neudel said. “The biggest gap was around winter break, where we gave students two weeks of study halls to prepare for exams and projects, and then there was a short week when we returned and a missed week the following week.”

In an email to The Gator, Neudel sent a breakdown of what has been covered in Wellness thus far, and what is scheduled for the remainder of the semester.

  • Library orientation—Head Librarian Megan Dolan (1 week, completed)
  • Team building—Upper School Head Joshua Neudel (3 weeks, completed)
  • Study skills—Director of Academic Services Danielle Bartone (2 weeks completed, 1 week scheduled for final exam study planning)
  • Nutrition—Alison Kaufman, outside expert (2 weeks, completed)
  • Identity workshops—Director of Equity and Inclusion Jessica Christian (2 weeks, completed)
  • Second semester courses, signature programs—Neudel (1 week, completed)
  • Grade level climate/culture Reflections—Upper School Counselor Emily Luckett (5 weeks completed, 1 week in progress, 1 additional week before summer)
  • Community service work preparing signs for food drive—Neudel (1 week, completed)
  • Research skills, including preparation for history paper—Dolan (5 weeks, completed)
  • Winterim Prep—Dean of Students Paul Murray and Neudel (1 week, completed)
  • 2019-20 course selection process—Murray (1 week)
  • Study halls planned around exams, breaks, and uneven weeks— (4 weeks, completed)

According to the curriculum guide, 9th grade Wellness provides “students with the skills to be healthy and successful members of the School community,” and exposes new high-schoolers to a “core set of skills and approaches to manage the potential stressors they face as adolescents.”

The course descriptions also explains that topics covered include mindfulness, cultural competency, academic skills, social emotional learning, physical health, digital responsibility, and media literacy.

“I don’t think that Wellness was worth our time,” Dieter Gardner ’22 said. “We ended up spending a lot of time studying or just sitting around, when it would have been useful to learn about other things. I think if next year is like this year, it makes no sense to do it. But if they do something productive, I think that that would be really helpful.”

Sofia Chaves ’22 also said that too often the class turns into a study hall.

“Sometimes, even when there is a teacher, we get out early,” Chaves said.

This year, Chaves said, students also discussed issues of identity, gender and race, and study and research skills.

According to the course description, 10th grade Wellness will also meet once a week. In addition to diving deeper into topics covered in the freshman course, the elective will also cover public speaking, social and emotional learning, and digital responsibility.

By the end of the year, students will also become CPR and first aid certified.

Wellness courses are a part a larger School effort to promote overall student well-being, according to the curriculum guide.

“Each year, the School invites in speakers to deepen students’ understanding of local, national, and global issues, as well as to expose them to new ideas,” the curriculum guide states in part. “These are mission-oriented programs that help students learn about relevant topics, develop an appreciation for new ideas, and engage in conversations. Presentations in the past have ranged from visiting artists to conversations on diversity to the Syrian refugee crisis.”

Additionally, each grade has weeklong workshops on sex education or stress management and substance and abuse.

This was the first year that Wellness was offered. Two years ago, Adolescent Issues was offered, before the School took year reprieve to assess the curriculum.