School Provides Wellness Bags for Students

The Southern Hancock School District, located near New Palestine, IN, has made wellness bags and distributed them to students on December 23 and 24. The school district has been on remote learning, and the administrators have learned that a lot of children do not like learning this way. Many of the families in the district are suffering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This made the school district and community partners take action and pack wellness bags for their K-12 students.

What the Bags Contain

The bags provided by the Southern Hancock School District contain the essentials that a student would need for virtual learning. The items include pens, pencils, markers, a journal or notebook, some paper supplies, a fun book to read and some healthy snacks. School counselor Amanda Schwyn coordinated the distribution of the bags at New Palestine Junior High School. Her main role there is to help students who have personal or family difficulties during the school year.

Why the District Made the Wellness Bags

The educators in the Southern Hancock School District wanted to support the students who have to keep learning remotely. The teachers have noticed that a lot of their students have been struggling from the lack of social opportunities and contact with others. Many of them were also missing some of the supplies that they needed to complete their assignments. Those supplies are easy to access at school, but not all kids had access to them at home. Schwyn coordinated with the district's administrators and some partners in the community to put the bags together.

How the Bags Were Funded

The project began with an idea of how the district could support its students. The district's Director of Student Services, Katy Eastes, thought the idea to provide to-go wellness bags was excellent. She applied for a mental health grant for $2,500. The grant was offered by Hancock Health's Healthy 365 community program. The school district received the grant and used about $600 of the funds from it for the bags. Local retailers Walmart and Meijer contributed $100 each in gift cards for the assembly of the bags. The total funding for the project was $800.

Reason Behind the Project

The school counselors recognized a deep need to improve the mental health and wellness in all students. The students who have not been in the classroom at all were suffering from more anxiety, depression and other issues related to their mental and emotional well-being. The counselors, administrators and educators hope this small gesture will bring smiles to the students who have been frustrated, sad or overwhelmed by the remote learning process.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Children's Mental Health

People of all ages are experiencing trauma related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of people are overlooking what children are experiencing. Eastes said that the district's project is just one small thing the community can do to make a difference in the lives of children. Her ultimate goal is to make a wellness bag for all students in the district. All of them do remote learning to some extent.

Additional Wellness Services Offered By the School District

Schwyn created a wellness period for students to attend during the middle of the school day. For middle school students, it takes place right after lunch. The wellness time gives her an opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with students. Being able to check in with the students is important to their well-being and progress.

Future Plans for Wellness Services

Schwyn hopes to get more funding from partners in the community to make more bags and add more items to them. She would like to include a sensory item, something to promote physical fitness, a water bottle, a healthy snack and a book about mindfulness. For the high school students, she wants to include an adult coloring book and pencils as well as a journal in which students can write their thoughts and feelings about the pandemic. The teachers would also like to include motivational stickers for students to adhere to their Chromebooks or iPads. There are also plans to add stress-management items and something fun, such as a $10 gift card for a fast food restaurant. The district has set up a wish list where people in the community can contribute items to put in the bags or funds for items to be purchased in bulk quantities.

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