Brain Breaks — A New Addition to SLHS?


Adriana Zamarron, Reporter

    Mental health is an ongoing problem within any community, Spring Lake High School isn’t excluded from that. So, why is it that there hasn’t been much done to promote students’ mental health? Well, truthfully, a lot has been done and is being done all the time at SLHS, but things take time to grow and develop, and lots of times it’s behind the scenes. We are always trying to find ways to truly change these patterns of poor mental health in relation to our school lives, so the question is: how can we make changes that really impact students and staff without interfering with our learning? Student Council made a big jump towards answering this question three weeks ago on Halloween. 

Last year, some of the Senior Student Government had been inspired by Mr. Sineath, our psychology and english 10 teacher, to enact brain breaks into our school’s structure. Lots of time was dedicated to logistics and developing this, but time didn’t allow for them to incorporate these ideas.

The new student council took it upon themselves to integrate the brain breaks into the 2022-2023 school year! “One of the hardest obstacles was to find a balance with administration and students where we can have fun but also have it be a learning experience,” says Tessa Fuller, our student body president. 

Through it all, the student council was devoted to providing a brain break for our entire high school, and the outcome was quite positive. Students had fun going around the gym and visiting all the fun tables that clubs had put together! Gathering candy, playing games, meeting up with friends, learning about new clubs — it was an exciting time for all the students and even staff Jennifer Boodt, the Girl Up club advisor, references: “I was looking forward to it as a brain break for myself, also!” 

Although the Halloween Brain Break was successful, there is always room for improvement. “The club fair was a fun experience, but I found it very overwhelming at first due to the number of people in such a small space. In total, I feel it should have been organized better; most of the clubs I was interested in had very long lines, and I feel like it boosted my anxiety as well as others’,” expressed Amelia Ernzer, a sophomore. Having 800 students crammed into the gym may have been overstimulating, so for other brain breaks, splitting it into groups (freshmen with sophomores and juniors with seniors for example) would be beneficial. “It felt more like an advertisement for the club but maybe students might see it differently,” says Jennifer Gwinupp, the Chalk Board Project club advisor. Many clubs, especially new ones, got a lot of momentum from this event; having it earlier in the year. If we do this again in future years, it would probably be more effective for clubs to gain members and credibility! Regardless, the club fair is an amazing and impressive step forward in relation to brain breaks, and this isn’t the end of it either! Student council, along with staff and the Peer Up, a club focused on reaching human connection among students, are all working to implemet more affairs like this!

“School is clearly about learning, but there is a myth that the most efficient way to learn is to focus only on academic content. It is true that if you had to learn something as fast as possible, and you only had 20 minutes, you shouldn’t take a brain break during that 20 minutes! But that’s not how school works. Instead, we’re in school for about seven hours per day for more than 10 years, and humans have certain cognitive limitations. We don’t typically perform as well doing the same thing without novelty or a break. Given the real conditions that we face in education, students will actually learn more efficiently if we build time away from traditional academic learning. Also, on average, people will be better off emotionally and feel more connected to those in their community if the brain breaks include human connection,” explains Karl Sineath.

The normalization of overwhelming ourselves academically for hours each day without brief periods of relaxation has short and long-term consequences on our stress levels and overall mental health. This will continue to stigmatize school as a negative environment; however, brain breaks will help create a positive environment. 

It is quite obvious that these Brain Breaks would have no negative impact on students; further, students want to have them! Karl Sineath interviewed his AP Psych students on the club fair and an overwhelming 95% said they want to continue with these brain breaks, so the question of “Why aren’t we having them?” is unavoidable. Traditionally, brain breaks have never been properly executed (other than maybe K-6th recess periods), and it hasn’t and won’t be easy to change the heavily established 7 hours of straight analytical thinking each day. New perspectives are being now brought into our high school, that of both students and teachers, and we seem to have finally reached a common goal of fighting back on poor mental health. Groups like the student council and Peer Up are taking steps to make these overwhelmingly positive impacts a reality.

However, it isn’t just in their hands. Even though having regular brain breaks in our school lives isn’t a reality, we can still find room for breaks in our own lives. With finals week, it is very easy to get stressed out. Most of the students will spend a big chunk of time after school studying, completing assignments and projects, and just being all-around stressed out. 

Weekends are always something to look forward to, but Thanksgiving break is a huge opportunity for us to relax and have fun; spend time with family and friends, acknowledge what we are thankful for, eat good food, or if you don’t celebrate even just getting 5 days off school is something to get excited for! 

The Laker Anchor’s challenge for you is to put yourself on your calendar! Some of us will be better at it than others, but it is important to always devote time to ourselves! These holiday leaves are always a great prospect in terms of enjoying ourselves and spending our time on things other than academics, so do yourself a favor and have some fun this break!