Movement for Mental Health

Running and walking to improve middle school students' mental health

Background Information

Movement for Mental Health is a run club that is open to all levels and paces that meets weekly while working to build community, promote positive mental health and healthy exercise practice. Katherine planned weekly “walk and talks” during the school year that will work to get middle school and upper school students moving during the school day, providing a space for people to talk and helping each other reach their daily exercise goals.  Additionally, she worked to have runs on the weekend once a month. Katherine wants to stress the involvement of middle schoolers in Movement for Mental Health as when she was in middle school she felt like she had no outlet to release her stress and frequently found herself in situations where she had too much energy, but also felt anxious as she did not have adequate time to exercise in the day. Additionally Katherine knows that when she was in eighth grade she felt a bit intimidated by the high schoolers, so she wanted to bridge the gap and make the transition to high school that much easier. Katherine wanted to provide a space where people feel comfortable to move their bodies and provide a community for them. She also hosted optional weekend runs that encourage families and dogs to come to get into different parks in Seattle. Once a quarter, Katherine aim ed to have local athletes come in and talk about how running and exercise has positively impacted their mental health, as well as how important it is to prioritize mental health in the athlete community.

Implementation of Project

Movement for Mental Health required a lot of planning and communication. When Katherine first implemented her project, at the start of summer she had weekly runs with just Upper Schoolers to plan out how she would implement her project in the fall to involve Middle Schoolers. Together they realized that it would be most accessible if the club met during the day. This required a lot of planning as the middle school and upper school schedules are different. Katherine then contacted middle school deans to ensure that the safety was at the forefront of the club. She worked with her soccer coach and club advisor Nikki to figure out the best time and strategies to make the club succeed. They settled on walk and talks every other Thursday during upper school lunch and middle school community time.

Once a month Katherine hosted a park run with her coach and encourages dogs and families to come. However she ran into challenges with the rainy Seattle weather and had to come up with alternative options for those days such as yoga or pickleball. She and Nikki aimed to host local athletes once a quarter, to talk about their running journey and how running has positively affected their lives. Once everything was layed out she spoke at the middle school club fair to get middle schoolers involved. Now the club has been running for the past 4 months, with middle schoolers joining this past month.

Results of Project

Katherine and her action team were able to provide a space for middle school and upper school students to build a community as well as provide a space for them to move their body throughout the day. They also provided an outlet for students during stressful times in the school year. We met weekly during the school day for 30 minutes and once a month on the weekends for a hour at local parks. At our first club meeting, only 3 middle school girls and 2 upper school girls showed up, but as the year progressed more and more people started to come, and by October we consistently had meetings with 10 middle schoolers and 3-4 upper schoolers.

Each middle schooler was paired up with and Upper schooler and each week the topic of discussion differed. For example one of the themes was “What advice would you give your eight grade self?” We walk around Dahl Field for about 30 minutes and usually complete 1 mile. On the weekends we had a range of participants but usually we had 3-4 families and 2-3 dogs show up, usually running about 3 miles around greenlake or discovery park.

We were able to create a space that promoted community building between upper school and middle school students. Sixth grader Asha expressed her gratitude for the club in an announcement at Community Time, saying:

“I love how we get to talk to Upper schoolers and hear their experience at UPrep!”

She then encouraged her friends to come to the next meetings. Additionally we were able to bridge the gap between middle and upper school students, giving middle schoolers, upper school buddies to talk to.

What’s Next

Katherine hopes to pass on this club to a junior to take over and keep the club running. She enjoyed working with middle schoolers and found a new passion for being a mentor for younger kids.  She hopes that she can find similar roles in the future coaching running. Additionally, she feels that a lot of the lessons she learned navigating this process are transferable to the immediate future as well as in the long term.