Episcopal is a leader among independent schools in programming related to HSW in Northeast Florida. The school’s Health, Safety, and Well-Being (HSW) program has been in place for several years, each year expanding on ways to ensure students learn self care, mental health best practices, coping skills, and how to make healthy choices. All content is delivered in an age-appropriate way in an environment that is open and caring so that all students may participate fully in discussions and associated activities. In addition to students, the program includes faculty and staff, with professional development training occurring on campus so that they may more fully support and be understanding of pressures students are facing and decisions they are making, whether that relates to food choices, social media, or vaping.
Mindfulness-focused programs are incorporated into the curriculum on our Lower School campuses as a way to introduce the HSW program to elementary school students. The Beaches Campus welcomed Playful Minds for its first mindfulness event. Workshops were tailored appropriately for Kindergarten - grade 2 and grades 3 - 6. Additional events are planned around topics such as nutrition, Qi Gong, and spirituality. The St. Mark’s Campus has implemented the Monique Burr Foundation's Child Safety Matters program in Kindergarten through sixth grade which helps educate, equip, and empower students in the face of potentially precarious situations, with age appropriate application. The campus also works closely with the Florida Children's Institute and is employing mindfulness activities in each classroom, such as encouraging students to notice what is going on inside and outside of themselves. Teachers are using mindfulness activities for brain breaks, including yoga, deep breathing, finger fiddles, and others. In addition, nutrition and physical exercise have been incorporated into science and physical education programs.
Middle and Upper School
Episcopal’s current focus for HSW is working to best utilize the first part of a $150K three-year grant recently received from the Winston Family Foundation on Technology and Teenagers. ESJ’s Student Services Department has identified social media and technology as key contributors to student anxiety levels. Teachers echo the sentiment and strive to incorporate technology in the classroom without losing connection to students and each other.
ESJ continues to explore the appropriate use of technology and offer real life strategies for managing it more productively. We are interested in inclusive conversations with students about the importance of technology and social media in their lives and how we can partner with them to disempower the negative consequences of a culture that has become saturated with curated online behavior. Our emphasis is on helping students learn how to discern when to use technology, how to assess when it is starting to dominate their thinking, and how to have the courage to make necessary changes in their interactions with technology.
The next program the school will implement is random student drug and alcohol testing going into effect in September of 2020 for grades 9 - 12. The school is working to ensure the program is carefully implemented. The purpose of the program is to safeguard the health of our students and to give them an early opportunity for help should they need it.