Niles explains why this season, in particular, his teammates are playing with urgency and hustle.
Wellness and Support
At Pingry, we believe that nurturing student health and wellness is as important to a student's overall success as academic growth and achievement. Our approach to educating students is, quite intentionally, a holistic one. To this end, we provide a wide variety of support, programming, and resources to help students find balance and develop self-confidence, sound judgment, and resiliency, both inside and outside the classroom. We also recognize the importance of supporting our faculty and staff, and we continue to invest in resources to support all members of the Pingry community.
Read on to learn more about how we promote wellness on both of our campuses.
- Peer Support, Leadership, and Wellness Advocacy
- Promoting Balance
- Health Curriculum
- Speakers and Assemblies
- Parenting Resources & Events
- Faculty & Staff Programs
- Professional Development
Three full-time counselors (distinct from our college counseling staff), including doctorates in psychology and a licensed social worker, are readily available to meet with students or parents separately, or speak with families together about challenges they may be facing. In addition to their regular presence throughout the school day, whether in Morning Meetings with students or periodic visits to advisories, for example, our counselors routinely consult with teachers and advisors to support their interactions with Pingry students. The Counseling Department also organizes a number of events during the year, such as Lower School, Middle School and Upper School coffees with parents; student workshops focused on wellness skills and safety (both physical and mental); and more.
Our Upper School Peer Group and Peer Leadership programs—in which selected seniors partner with groups of freshmen in a year-long mentoring capacity to help them navigate academic and social concerns—are enriching opportunities for students to share with and learn from one another. By connecting freshmen with seniors who have completed leadership training, students create new connections as they participate in non-adult led programming. Pingry faculty select peer leaders who are positive role models and can serve as trusted resources for younger Pingry students. Our goal is for all students to feel supported on campus and to provide them with additional mentors beyond their teachers and coaches.
In both the Middle School and Upper School, students can join Affinity Groups, which are designed to be safe spaces for students to learn more about their various identities and to discuss their questions, comments, and concerns with others who share that same identity. Affinity groups can help students feel supported by peers and adults in their community, as well as help them develop greater self confidence and feel connected to campus.
Additionally, students play an active role in creating wellness-related programs on campus, through Pingry's Student Wellness Club, founded by Upper School students in 2018. Promoting the overall physical and mental well-being of Pingry students, club members plan events that address student needs; organize activities that focus on mental health education, prevention, and awareness; and work to reduce the stigma of mental illness. A sample of the club's activities include:
Therapy dog visits
Participation in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's "Out of the Darkness" walk.
Creation of a "Positivity Wall" on campus, where students spread positivity by writing notes of gratitude and inspiration for others to read.
Participation as panelists at the 2020 inaugural Interscholastic Mental Health Conference, which involved sharing ideas with other schools around mental health on campus and talking about ways to make changes to school culture.
Guiding students to discover the life balance that is right for them is an essential outcome of a Pingry education. A range of unique school features and programming are in place to ensure that their overall well-being—just like their intellectual growth— is an area of continual focus and development.
Similarly, school administrators and faculty consistently remain open and willing to explore new wellness initiatives.
Below are a few examples of the ways in which life balance is nurtured at Pingry:
Flexible Scheduling: Block scheduling in the Middle and Upper Schools means that longer classes meet on a rotating basis, not everyday, and ample “flex” periods are built into the school day to ensure unhurried transitions between classes. In 2019, a later time of 8:30 a.m. was implemented for classes on our Basking Ridge Campus.
Project Week: In place of final exams, at the end of the school year, Middle School students engage in a hands-on, multidisciplinary, culminating project experience known as Project Week.
Getting Outside: Outdoor learning opportunities abound on our nearly 200-acre Basking Ridge Campus, which includes a kitchen garden, campsite, and outdoor classroom, as well as on our Short Hills Campus, which also boasts a garden, state-of-the-art playground, and surrounding woodlands that are used by classes.
Anti-bullying Programs: In the Middle School, appropriate social media behavior and anti-bullying and violence prevention are addressed through such successful programs and visiting organizations as #winatsocial and Prepare, Inc. Upper School students also benefit from Prepare Inc. in learning boundary setting, how to diffuse uncomfortable or dangerous situations, how to report danger to an adult, and other important self-defense strategies.
Decisions Course: Offered in all grades of the Lower School and year-long Decisions classes for Grade 4 and 5 students address important, non-academic skills, such as managing emotions, friendship skills, personal safety, conflict resolution, time management, problem-solving, and bullying prevention with peers.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness programming is woven throughout all three divisions: a mindfulness course in the Upper School, Mindfulness Club in the Middle School, and mindfulness and meditation sessions for Lower School students, faculty, and staff.
- Surveys: Pingry administers the Authentic Connections Student Resilience Survey, which is an anonymous survey that assesses measures of student well-being and modifiable aspects of student life most relevant to the current climate. Pingry also administers the Independent School Health Check Survey every few years to ascertain the health and wellness of our student body, and to better understand areas for improvement so that school programming can be adapted accordingly.
Connection and Community: Across school divisions, we offer a variety of wellness-related activities, such as yoga and mindfulness, Family Bingo Night, movie night, Hour of Wellness, Grandparents and Special Friends Day, and therapy dog visits incorporated throughout the school year; foosball and ping pong tables are staples of both the Middle and Upper School Commons, and well used during flex time!
Leisure/Hobby Opportunities: In the Upper School, extracurricular and club offerings abound, including the Student Wellness Club, Outing Club, Book Appreciation Club, and Taiko Drumming, and, for example, Dance Club, Comic Book Club, and Film and Photography Club in the Middle School. An array of after-school enrichment classes are also offered each trimester at the Middle and Lower School.
From fire safety and basic hygiene in the Lower School, to physical development, citizenship, decision-making, and substance abuse in the Middle School, to courses in Basic Life Support, First Aid, and Emergency Medical Responder certification in the Upper School, Pingry’s health education curriculum is designed to equip students with skills for emotional, social, and physical health. Students in all divisions learn techniques for problem-solving, relaxation, and stress management, with opportunities to practice these skills in a safe, supportive environment.
For details about our health curriculum for each division, please see below:
Foundational to Pingry's student wellness programming is its Advisory program. Each Lower School student has a homeroom teacher who acts as the primary point of contact for the student’s family, which becomes especially relevant in the latter years of the Lower School when students have different teachers for each subject area. In Grade 5, the Advisory program involves students meeting three days a week in their homeroom and twice a week in a larger group to discuss issues such as adjusting to Grade 5, schedule and workload, and friendship issues.
In the Middle and Upper Schools, students are assigned an advisor—a faculty or staff member—who serves as a family's primary point of contact throughout the school year. Advisors help their advisees negotiate an array of topics—from the academic program to the school’s social experiences and anything in between—that may be a source of concern for a student. Advisors are routinely in touch with their advisees’ teachers, coaches, and parents, and are available to facilitate assistance in situations when a student requires additional support.
Beyond receiving individual support from their advisor, all Middle and Upper School students are also part of an advisory group. In the Upper School, students meet for 25 minutes per week during a dedicated advisory period to discuss a range of non-academic topics and build connections within a familial, supportive environment. In the Middle School, advisory is a daily, ungraded class, that, like its academic counterparts, follows a structured, grade-specific curriculum: Grade 6 examines kindness and community, Grade 7 focuses on leadership, and Grade 8 explores the question, "What do I stand for?" Middle School advisors also facilitate a close-knit group dynamic and guide student-led parent-teacher conferences, helping each student set individual goals and providing support and guidance toward meeting them throughout the year.
Pingry routinely welcomes outside speakers—experts in a variety of fields— and hosts assemblies across a wide range of timely topics. Below is a sampling of visitors to the Basking Ridge Campus, who, after their presentations, take time to speak in a more intimate setting with students, faculty, and staff.
- Peter Horn, Ed.D— Founder of Horn, LLC, former teacher, and administrator, spoke to faculty and staff about civil discourse, including issues related to the 2020 election.
- Dr. Lisa Damour, Ph.D–Psychologist, best-selling author, and New York Times monthly columnist, spoke to faculty and staff about how to manage stress and anxiety under COVID-19.
- Dr. Michael Thompson, Ph.D.–New York Times bestselling author of The Pressured Child, school consultant, and international speaker on the subjects of children, schools, and parenting.
- Sean Swarner–Inspirational pediatric cancer survivor who spotlights how perseverance and self-belief propelled him past obstacles to ultimately summit Mt. Everest.
- Dr. Joel Nunez–NJ-licensed psychologist, author, and public speaker who shares timeless insights about self care and burn out that resonate with learners of all ages
- Tony Hoffman–BMX Elite Pro and 2016 Olympic Games coach, who turned his life around after battling drug addiction, mental illness, and incarceration.
- Andrew Ominus–Successful college athlete who shared his personal story of struggle and recovery from depression and anxiety in a presentation for the non-profit organization, Minding Your Mind.
- Qwell Meditation & Wellness Studio—Provides monthly guided meditation sessions to Lower School faculty and staff.
- How to Ease Worries During COVID-19
- Teens, Young Adults, and Their Mental Health During COVID-19
- Fostering Resilience in the Time of COVID-19
- Keeping a Love for School Alive
- Will the Pandemic Have a Lasting Impact on My Kids?
- Self-Care Guide for Pingry Families
- October 27—Parents Connect with College Counseling and Student Support Services—Book Discussion and Author Talk: “Who Gets in And Why." A follow-up virtual event with the book's author, Jeffrey Selingo, will take place on November 10.
- November 18—Pingry families are invited to the next Common Ground Speaks event, with Amy Morin, LCSW, mental strength trainer and international bestselling author, who will present an engaging lecture on “How to Raise Mentally Strong Kids in Today’s World.
Fitness/Mindfulness Classes - For the 2020-2021 school year, we currently offer the following live classes: Yoga, Zumba, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), and Mindfulness. For more information, including class schedules, please visit Pingry's Faculty & Staff Portal and look for the Group Fitness Classes link in the Big Blue Wellness section.
Counseling and Support - Our weekly "Coffee with Colleagues" are supportive, informal spaces for colleagues to share and engage with one another about any challenges that they may be facing. These are also a nice way to just connect and spend time together.
Professional Development - For a list of some of the professional growth workshops that have been offered recently, please see Professional Development tab below.
In the spirit of modeling the wellness behaviors that we encourage our students to practice, Pingry's professional growth theme for the 2019-20 school year was Student Wellness: Educate 360. A number of relevant workshops, held before the school day begins or during faculty/staff in-service day, provided firsthand opportunities to explore the topics of physical, mental, and intellectual wellness. A sample of some of the professional growth workshops that have been offered include:
Vaping Education and Update
Mental Health Gatekeeper Training
Managing stress and anxiety under COVID-19
iWellness – Free Apps to Encourage Healthy Behaviors
Keystone Habits and the Power of Exercise
Finding a Balance
Emotional First Aid in the Field
Self Defense and Personal Safety
- Connection, Community, and Support
- Personal Development and Growth
- Stress Management and Self-Care
- Communication, Leadership, and Emotional Intelligence