February 29, 2012 - Kingsbury Country Day School in Addison Township has a proud tradition of training the body as well as the mind.
That tradition is continuing and expanding today with its Personal, Social and Physical Education program.
"We include all different aspects of wellness – social, emotional, physical, vocational, intellectual and spiritual," said Julie Richmond, a physical education teacher at Kingsbury. "Each month I try to incorporate something that's outside of just gym class."
For instance, the students recently wrapped up their "21 Jumpstart" program, which encouraged each of them to spend 21 days breaking an existing bad habit and in turn, starting a new, good one.
"It takes 21 days to begin a habit or to really get into a habit," Richmond said. "They took on everything from biting their nails to starting an exercise plan. They even got their parents and brothers and sisters involved."
One of the things that sets Kingsbury apart is its ability for students from different grade levels to mix with each other, allowing for mentoring and friendships that span the junior kindergarten through eighth-grade spectrum.
An example of this is Kingsbury's ski program, which has been around since the 1960s.
"It's really one of the things that separates us from every other school's PE program that I know of," Richmond said. "All of our kids can ski."
At the beginning of every school year, each younger student is paired up with an older student and the two become "ski buddies." Throughout the year, they bond through activities ranging from reading together to exercising.
The strength of this relationship is evident during the five Fridays throughout January and February when the entire school goes skiing. "We have the older kids help the younger kids get their equipment on and get them started before they're allowed to go out on the hill," Richmond said.
Skiing is a great sport because not only is it fun exercise, it helps builds self-confidence, teaches independence and imparts a skill they use for the rest of their lives, Richmond said.
"It's something you can do as an individual or as part of a group," said Audrey Dibble, who oversees admissions at Kingsbury. "Not everybody wants to play a team sport. Not all kids are team-sport players. Skiing is something they can each learn and do at their own pace."
In addition to skiing, Kingsbury also tries to build the bonds between younger and older students by having them participate in team activities – such as relay races and floor hockey tournaments – for which the total age of the members combined cannot exceed 21 years.
"You can't have, for example, three eighth-graders on a team," Richmond said. "It teaches the kids to work and play together."
But Kingsbury's concern for health and wellness isn't just limited to its student body. The school's extended its concern to the community which surrounds and supports it.
For instance, during Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in May, Richmond often invites community members afflicted with the autoimmune disease to visit Kingsbury to discuss with students the challenges and issues they face. The kids even get to learn new things like how people in wheelchairs are able to exercise, Richmond noted.
Senior citizens are often invited to Kingsbury to engage in Tai Chi and Drums Alive fitness classes with students.
"It's a great way for young and old to work together and connect with each other," Richmond said. "It's also a way to reach out and bring the community here."
In October, the school invites the community to participate in a 5-kilometer run and walk. "We have so many advantages with this large (125-acre) campus – the woods and the trails are wonderful for cross country," Richmond said.
To learn more about Kingsbury Country Day School, visit www.kingsburyschool.org or call (248) 628-2571.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.