Health and Wellness Through the School Library

The lights are dimmed as meditative nature sounds and gentle music drift through the air. I instruct all students to stand at the front of their mats, exhale and fold forward, symbolically shaking all stressful thoughts from their heads to the ground. I then proceed to lead the small group through a “power” yoga series of poses. A powerful 45-minute session follows of flowing yoga poses designed to build strength and flexibility while releasing tension and anxiety. One might think I am describing a yoga class on the beach in Maui. If only that were true! The view from the frosty windows of Sharon High School’s Library is instead one of a snowy New England courtyard. Yoga Club has just ended for the day.

The purple mats and blocks were donated by our PTSO. The lavender scented, quilted eye pillows were donated by a teaching colleague who shares my love of yoga. The relaxation music was provided by one of our Yoga Club students, whose contagious love of yoga has spread through a small but devoted section of the student population.

A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures. Since many students view the library as a safe place and oasis within the building, stress reduction programming offered through the library just makes good sense.

In these days of transition for the library field, we are re-imagining our roles and expanding our vision to meet multiple needs for our students, staff and the wider community we serve. Yoga is just one way of providing an expanded level of service to the school community. Though I happen to be certified as a yoga instructor as well as a librarian, lack of yoga certification need not stop those who are looking for ways to think outside of the box through the offering of new activities and programming for patrons.

As one of the few independent learning zones in the school, the school library is the ideal place to initiate health and wellness programming that addresses student’s whole selves. We’ve held meditation workshops and teen self-confidence workshops on a regular basis. These workshops, facilitated by student leaders, high school clinical staff and/or outside community members, offer teens vitally important life skills training that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Not only over-stressed students but also over-stressed staff benefit from health and wellness related programming. I offer Tuesday and Thursday morning before school sessions. A small but loyal group of teachers have decided that it is well worth setting the alarm early to begin the day with a calm state of mind and an energized body.

The community building aspect of strong school library programming centered on health/wellness and student’s emotional needs is not to be underemphasized.

Our high school library provides a venue for student self expression throughout the school year. From talent shows and “Open Mike Nights,” to “Teen Speak Outs,” and poetry readings, the library serves as a hub for student creativity. Some of these events are tied to the curriculum, but many take place independently through creative efforts of staff interested in helping students find their voices.

Teen speaker Ashley Olafsen served as one of our primary guest facilitators this year in the library in partnership with our school’s ADL Club. Her message of teen empowerment and her role modeling of the use of social media to find one’s voice and connect to others is a powerful one that aligns with ISTE’s digital citizenship/technology standards. Such out of the box, valuable programming efforts serve our school communities well.



Author: Cathy Collins

Ms. Collins has worked as a Media Specialist/Librarian for 14 years. She is currently a library media specialist at Sharon High School, where she has worked for the past four years. She began her career as a reporter who covered business, arts and education-related issues. While interviewing the headmaster at a private school, she realized that she wanted to combine her love of research and writing with a career in education. At that point, she returned to school for a Masters in Library Science and further graduate studies in educational leadership. Ms. Collins has published her writing in various journals including “Library Media Connection,” “NEA Today,” education-related blogs and websites including AASL’s “Knowledge Quest.” She is a 2012 Reynolds High School Journalism Institute Fellow and project consultant for the E-Book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Journalism in the Digital Age.” She received a “Teachers for Global Classrooms” fellowship from the U.S. State Dept. in 2014 and is the recipient of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award (2014) as well as a “Super Librarian” award bestowed by MSLA (Massachusetts School Library Association). She is a Massachusetts Library System Executive Board Member and has served on the MassCUE Board as PD Chair since 2013 along with the NEISTE Board. She earned National Board Certification as a Library/Media Teacher in 2009. In her spare time, she enjoys nature walks, reading, travel and yoga.

Categories: Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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