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Inspired Wellness: P.E. for Gen Z

Wednesday, September 5, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By Heather Jordan, Crain Center Fitness Specialist, Hutchison School, Memphis, TN

When friends inquire about what I do for a living, the conversation usually starts something like this: 


“So, you teach high school P.E.”


“No, I teach high school wellness.”


A baffled look usually ensues.


I believe their bewilderment stems from a lack of familiarity with wellness, much less how to teach it to high school girls. Helping students define wellness for themselves is what we tackle at Hutchison. Our version of physical education is broader, more personal, and more applicable to life than what has traditionally been taught in school.


Starting in ninth grade, in-depth teaching of exercise physiology and nutrition begins, fitness goals are made, and groundwork for personal wellness is laid. By the end of their freshman year, the girls have learned how to independently schedule exercise into their weekly routines, how to properly fuel their bodies, and how to craft their own strength and aerobic workouts. The work they do rivals or exceeds what would be seen in a gym on a college campus: health, wellness, and fitness activities take place in Hutchison’s Brenda and Lester Crain Center, a two-story building featuring athletic training and conditioning rooms and an aerobics/dance area. 


How does Hutchison teach wellness to high school girls? It starts with thinking about all the elements in their lives that need attention to help them function at their absolute best:

  • Proper Sleep 
  • Exercise 
  • Nutrition 
  • Time and Stress Management
  • Positive Relationships
  • Life Balance


In 10th grade, adding to their fitness and nutrition knowledge, the girls dive into a specific definition of what personal wellness means for them. Girls are still required to create a fitness goal, but they are now attached to a higher purpose, making a lifelong connection to the importance of caring for their minds and bodies. It might sound something like this:


For the girl who feels most confident when she runs: “I will decrease my mile time by 30 seconds.” For the girl who loves to rock climb and wants to “show the boys she’s just as strong as they are — I will increase my upper body strength.” For the girl who strives for academic excellence and realizes that exercise helps her study with a clear mind: “I will work out for 30 minutes after school.”


After the fitness goal is set, the remaining goals (typically two or three) focus on a girl’s individual wellness. Good examples are: For the girl who values her relationship with her brother who is leaving for college soon: “I will schedule a lunch date with my brother once a month this school year.” For the girl who loves playing guitar, but has a hard time fitting it into her schedule: “I will play guitar for 10 minutes every night before bed.” For the girl who has made the connection between how bad she feels when she doesn’t get enough sleep and how phone usage impacts sleep quality: “I will put my phone away and start my homework by 5 PM.” 


P.E. teacher? No. Wellness teacher? Yes.


How do we come to set these unique goals for each girl? Lots of talking. And the girls are made to think. The question is posed, “What makes you happy and best able to thrive?”


Perhaps you can relate to my friends. You may have a lovely family and successful career. And, when you think of that question, you also get a pensive look and maybe a sparkle in your eye and say, “Gosh, I wish someone had asked me that question when I was in high school.”



Heather Jordan serves as a fitness specialist in the Hutchison Crain Center. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is a certified health and wellness coach, as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

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