Stress Relief in the Classroom: This Genius Activity Will Teach Students to Manage Stress!
Editor's note: When teens are overwhelmed with stress, it can be hard for them to function--so it's essential that they learn about healthy stress busting techniques. To help with this, Choices teacher-adviser Amy Lauren Smith--a sixth to eighth grade health teacher at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China, and the brilliant mind behind our Teacher's Guide each month--shares a creative project she's been using in her classes for years.
I work at an international school in China, so my students come from all over the world. When I started here in 2009, I quickly realized that I would have to adapt my old curriculum from suburban California to suit the very different health concerns of my new students. This was a high pressure, high stakes environment. Rather than my usual lessons about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, my international students needed to learn about time management, stress, and the importance of getting a good night's sleep.
I worked over the course of that first year tweaking my projects and activities to align with their needs. And as I did, I decided to share what I was doing with other health teachers in the region who might be facing the same concerns. That's when I discovered that what I was dealing with wasn't unique after all. I began facilitating health education workshops at other international schools, and then eventually, back home in the states.
During these workshops, I always start out the with the same question. What are the biggest health concerns for the students in your community? And over the last few years, whether I'm at a prep school conference in Asia, a health convention in the U.S., or a conference with teachers from the very same district I started at back home, it's consistently stayed the same:
Not unlike the celebrities in this month's article, Secret Stress Busters of the Stars, today's teens are always "on." In our high-speed digital world, disconnected alone time is something we must now actively seek out, and we need to teach our students to do the same.
For this month's Teacher's Guide, I adapted a project that I've been doing with my kids for the last few years. Here's how you can bring this idea to your own classroom:
1. Teach kids about the physiological signs of stress and read Secret Stress Busters of the Stars as a class.
2. Using the worksheet below, have students brainstorm a list of their own coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy. Then, they'll answer a few reflection questions that will push them to analyze what methods truly work for them. (On our worksheet, we suggest working in groups so they can collaborate, but students can always work individually if you prefer.)
3. Each group creates a video (usually using their phones) that teaches four of their favorite healthy stress busters to their friends.
Over the years, this project has adapted from making a bookmark to a poster to a video blog. So regardless of the technology available at your school, you can adapt it to the resources you have on hand.
As I was writing this post, I asked my seventh graders about what they learned from their stress buster projects the year before. Here's what they told me:
- "I liked it because it was a time where I could be funny and teach people."
- "It was fun coming up with creative ways to deal with stress. I really liked watching everyone's videos because they were funny and I got to learn even more ways to deal with stress."
- "It was nice to teach other students and to express myself in a unique way."
- "I got to be creative and figure out ways to relieve stress. I still use my stress buster whenever I feel stressed out."
I was happy to hear that the project had stuck with them--and that they still go back to those coping skills when they begin to feel overwhelmed today. Regardless of the health concerns our current students are facing--alcohol, drugs, stress, bullying, unhealthy eating habits, technology misuse, or something we haven't even thought of yet--it all comes down to using healthy techniques to deal with the issue. After all, if we teach our young kids to recognize healthy coping skills, we won't have to spend so much time trying to protect them from the not-so-healthy methods they encounter later on.
Click on the image (above) to check out Secret Stress Busters of the Stars, for more techniques on teen stress relief!