Wellness Education at Culver
The Culver mission focuses on aspiring to excellence by educating the whole student - mind, body, and spirit. Striving for excellence in academics and leadership can be complemented by students being intentional with their health behavior. In other words, students truly flourish at Culver when they appropriately balance their responsibilities and opportunities with taking care of their overall health. More colleges and universities are attracted to prospective students who are well-rounded, that have a good academic background, aspire to leadership, and are also "good people" who take care of themselves as well as genuinely caring for others.
Living A Balanced Life At Culver
This is no easy task. Living a balanced life and striving to excel in a rigorous boarding school may be a contradiction in terms. Culver is a rigorous boarding school with a demanding curriculum. Students are expected to make sound decisions. Some students are well suited for this environment. They thrive on a busy schedule, while others may struggle with day-to-day activity. For some, this is a healthy tension that helps to eventually promote self-discipline and organization. However, many students end up borrowing from "Peter to pay Paul" - they have tipped the activity scales to one side and have difficulty righting themselves. They have either overscheduled themselves or are in an environment that promotes it.
There has been a tendency in many secondary schools to separate academics, residential life, leadership, religious activities, performing arts, and athletics as distinctly different activities that are unrelated. Typically, faculty/staff vie for the students' time and energy for each activity and class, and sometimes students have difficulty prioritizing. In contrast, the "whole student" approach at Culver suggests that all the activities are interdependent - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We cannot treat a student as whole while separating his or her mind from their spirit and/or body. Each dimension is interconnected. What a student eats, and/or how long one sleeps may have a great influence on a student's attention span in class or preparation for an exam. From a different angle, what happens on the athletic field may be influenced by a rushed meal in the dining hall or studying all night in the living unit. We want our students to see the relationship between fitness and nutrition. We want our students to be conscious of how these mini-behaviors influence their lives at Culver, whether it is in the classroom, living unit, on the athletic field or on stage. A student who knows, values and acts on good health habits may enhance academic and/or athletic performance. As part of the long term planning process, we ought to provide the proper environment and proper education for this realization.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a dynamic interaction and balance of the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual dimensions.’ The term wellness refers to the attainment of optimal health through the balance of these dimensions. This balance, by nature, falls within a spectrum or continuum, and a person's state of health or illness may be determined by the balance or imbalance of these factors. Therefore, good health, in and of itself, may be considered to be a subjective experience.
Although, the dimensions of health may be defined either separately or in collaboration, there are several compelling and enduring questions that arise regarding what good health is. Can a person who has a physical imbalance (e.g. chronic pain) and compensates with a strong psychosocial-spiritual state still be considered healthy? In Western culture, good physiological health has typically been considered the marker for good health. However, during the life span, there is a time when a person's biological system is not at its optimal functioning. Does that mean that an infant or a ninety-six year old person is not in good health? One avenue toward understanding a person's health is to gain perspective on a student or client/patient's autobiography of health and illness.
In Western culture, the six different health dimensions tend to be viewed as separate from one another. For example, when it is suggested that the body is sick, there is also a suggestion that the body is separated from the rest of the individual, leaving the person not whole. People who believe this tend to think of sickness as being something wrong, because part of the human system is not functioning appropriately. This reference would tend to support that the mind and body are distinctly different. (Brody, 1987) Separation and integration of the mind and body are essential concepts that determine an individual's approach to health and illness.
Good physical health is evident in people who are in a dynamic state of effective anatomical and physiological function including the circulatory, muscle-skeletal, nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems of the body. Physical health is also "the ability to perform daily tasks without undue fatigue; (it is the) biological integrity of the individual" (Dintiman and Greenberg, 1986, pp. 7-8)
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Emotionally healthy people recognize and express feelings appropriately and have the ability to control and balance these feelings with the other health dimensions.
Mentally healthy people have a sound intellect, the capacity to learn and to absorb as one appropriately perceives the environment. This may also be called intellectual or cognitive health. Donatelle and Davis (5) refer to the ability to learn, the ability to grow from experience, and intellectual capabilities. Decision making is a vital component of one’s mental health.
Sound moral health is based on the acquisition of a good character. By daily practicing the habits of wisdom, courage, moderation and justice, people illustrate that they know the good, value the good and do the good.
Socially healthy people relate well with others, including friends, family and other groups. Comfortability with self and others at various stages of the life span is a hallmark of good social health.
Hawks, Hull, et al (1995, p.33) define spiritual health as "a high level of faith, hope, and commitment in relation to a well-defined world view or belief system that provides a sense of meaning and purpose to existence in general, and that offers an ethical path to personal fulfillment which includes connectedness with self, others, and a higher power or larger reality." Spiritual health may be viewed from a faith tradition perspective and also a secular viewpoint.