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Anger as an iceberg? Camp explores ways to wellness

Another after-school program is planned for February

A group of elementary girls huddled at a classroom table and took turns sharing what makes them angry.

Savannah Reynolds pointed to “being bullied” on a worksheet meant to generate ideas.

Vadanya Schenk pointed to “being told no.”

For another girl, triggers were schoolwork cheaters and getting blamed for things she didn’t do.

Anger, pointed out Maggie Bushey, a graduate student at Grand Valley State University’s School of Public Health, is a secondary emotion.

Savannah knew what that meant: “That it is caused by something else,” she said.

Added Lindsey Plumley: “You’re usually sad, then you’re angry.”

Finally, from Jackson Williams: “And it builds up and up.”


Students from Grand Valley State University’s School of Public Health run sessions during Wellness Camp (courtesy photo)

Anger is like an iceberg, Bushey explained: The part you see seems big enough, but there’s a whole lot below the surface holding it up.

Understanding emotions and feelings was one of three sessions 48 third- through fifth-graders rotated through during a typical Thursday spent at Wellness Camp, held after school.

The other two regular sessions were movement, which incorporated activities they might not be introduced to in school, such as yoga and mindfulness; and nutrition, which involved learning about healthy eating habits and trying good-for-you snacks available right in Lowell.

Abbie Dinka plays hopscotch

Eat Better, Move More, Smile Often

Lowell Community Wellness partnered with GVSU before winter break to offer an eight-week pilot Wellness Camp at Cherry Creek Elementary. The camp, open to students in grades 3-5, was led by GVSU public health students.

Wellness Camp is the first program to use data from the “LoWellness Health Survey” released in 2016, which included data from 1,800 adults and more than 2,400 students in the district. The survey and the pilot camp were funded by a grant from the Lowell Area Community Fund.

Program Director Jodie Seese said the objective of Wellness Camp is to be preventative, and to go beyond the typical approach of diet and exercise.

“We look deeper and focus on nutrition, being physically active and paying attention to mental wellness,” Seese said. “We focus on positive messages, rather than what not to do. We wanted to focus on healthier choices and learning why some foods or activities are better than others. Our intention is to promote a healthy lifestyle with lessons that are engaging and designed to be hands-on and interactive.”

The curriculum for the camp was developed by looking at areas of risk gleaned from the survey, Seese said. “Things that stood out for this age group were consumption of energy drinks, lack of physical activity, hours of sleep, screen time and having someone to talk to when sad or lonely.”

Wellness Campers show off tree poses learned in yoga and mindfulness sessions (courtesy photo)

Lessons also were based on objectives from the Michigan Curriculum, she said. “We felt it was important to complement and build on objectives that were being covered in the classroom, when possible.”

Seese added that the public health experts at GVSU, who have been involved since 2013 when the survey was conceived, “were instrumental in finding innovative, evidence-based programs and lessons to address our students’ needs with age-appropriate and meaningful activities.”

A Wednesday after-school Wellness Camp will begin in February for other Cherry Creek third- through fifth-graders.


Lowell Community Wellness

SNN article: Survey seeks info on stressors, health

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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