March 9, 2023 --Teachers at Woodcrest Elementary are engaging students in conversations about their mental health and well-being through an initiative called Galaxy Group.
“Galaxy Group is when a bunch of students come together to talk about mental health or happiness and positivity. We’ll either do an experiment or watch a video and then talk about it after,” explained fifth grader Julius Scott.
The groups are composed of about 10 students of all different grades. Once a month, they meet to have an in-depth conversation and do an activity about various topics like communication, diversity, and self-awareness. Emily Bernardi, Art Teacher at the school, said her daughters participated in a similar group activity at their school years ago.
“We really wanted to pull in Social-Emotional Learning, and we looked at panorama data to see what areas we needed to focus on as a base for our lessons,” she said.
Years before the pandemic, Bernardi began creating lessons, splitting students into groups, and assigning an adult in the building to those groups. She said her ultimate goal was to help students feel connected to others in the school.
“We wanted a way for kids to feel more connected to the school, know other kids and adults in the school, and feel like they have some trusted people within the building.”
Bernardi writes the lessons for all Galaxy Group meetings about once a month. She said that helps to keep the discussions uniform across the school, so students are all addressing the same topics.
Scott remembers being assigned to a Galaxy Group when he started at Woodcrest in Kindergarten.
“I remember my Galaxy Group teacher then would use glow sticks to represent emotions. We should shake up the glow sticks and then we would put the colors in charts and she would ask us what certain colors make us feel,” Scott said.
He said it’s a fun way to meet new people within his school, and he feels he knows more people when walking through the hallways.
Bernardi said her goal is for students to feel that connection with others after a Galaxy Group meeting.
“I’ve noticed there’s one fifth grade girl who goes to get a Kindergartener and that Kindergartener just loves that fifth grader. She’s hanging onto her and I have to remind her about personal space. But it’s like having a big sister at the school,” Bernardi said.