By Stefanie Sadocha
Mindfulness-Based Physical Education is the newest course option in Oyster Bay’s Physical Education Department. This course allows students to focus on their mental health, rather than typical physical education activities. Ms. Erin Murcott teaches the class, which is open to all students in grades 9-12 as a gym alternative.
After observing students’ stress levels at an all-time high, Ms. Murcott and Mr. Trentowski, Oyster Bay’s athletic supervisor, decided they needed to offer a time during the day when students can focus on themselves.
“I recognized a need for a way that kids can relieve stress. Students showed interest in the yoga unit during general PE, so I thought this would be a good alternative,” shares Ms. Murcott.
Throughout the course, students learn a variety of ways they can cope with their stress. Such methods include meditation, yoga, and Pilates, among others.
Each class focuses on a different skill. Students learn new types of mindful exercises, including yoga and Pilates techniques. Starting at five minutes, students eventually can work their way up to guided meditations as long as twenty minutes. The course also utilizes apps such as the ‘Calm’ app for these guided meditations. The ‘Calm’ app offers meditations aimed at lowering stress and enhancing sleep quality. They also offer guided videos to promote mindful movements, including stretching. To conclude each class, students engage in a class-wide meditation.
Ms. Murcott even shares ways that her students can take part in mindful activities outside of the course. For example, the class spent time learning about chair yoga. This is a method that enables students to relieve their stress at their desks during school, or even at home. Many of these tips and resources are free, which makes them easily accessible for students to use on a daily basis.
Although this class is not ideal for students who enjoy the high energy environment of a normal gym class, it is a great alternative for those who want a more relaxed environment where they can improve their mental health. Ms. Murcott reveals, “I find the participation in this course is very high compared to general physical education.” The high participation rates are due to students engaging in activities they have never done before and that do not require traditional athletic abilities.
Rebecca Keller, a sophomore enrolled in the class, says, “I love taking this class because it gives me a break in my very busy schedule. Taking the class ninth period makes it even better because it gives me time to distress between school and my after school activities.”
Oyster Bay High School would like to integrate mindfulness into the school day and make it available to all students. The school has already started taking steps toward educating all students by bringing instructors from Oyster Bay Yoga into all physical education classes. The instructors taught basic moves to the students, which gave them a feel for what being a student in mindfulness education would be like.
Additionally, Ms. Murcott wants all students to be educated on activities such as mindful walking, eating and thinking. If students have knowledge about these activities, they will be able to incorporate them into their daily lives.
Overall, the results of the Mindfulness Based Physical Education alternative have been nothing below outstanding. The course is able to educate students on how to handle their stress and act more mindfully throughout their daily lives. Students interested in improving their mental health should definitely consider taking this gym alternative.