Physical and Mental Health Supports Academic Performance

The Meadows School campus with green trees and paved sidewalks in Las Vegas, Nevada
Physical and Mental Health Supports Academic Performance

In the early 1940s, a psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow established the theory of a Hierarchy of Human Needs. When applied to education, the theory implies that in order for a student to be a ‘self-actualized’ learner, they must first have their basic needs, including physiological, safety, and belonging, met. See the explanatory image below borrowed from

Jumping ahead nearly 100 years, current research (linked below) shows that mental health, physical fitness, and nutritional wellness still play a vital role in the academic success of a student. This research suggests an association between academic performance and measures related to physical activity, nutrition, and sleep. Additionally, these same measures may also be linked to decreased depressive symptoms.

Unfortunately, national statistics reveal that only 25% of elementary and middle school-aged students get enough aerobic activity, 60% have adequate sleep, and 97.5% report that they eat some form of junk food every day. Further, 1 in 3 students indicate negative feelings ranging from sadness to hopelessness, nearly double the rate reported only ten years ago.

To achieve the highest tier of self-actualization and educational success in a world with these kinds of statistics, it ‘takes a village.’ The Meadows School embodies the envisioned theory and supports students in all of the areas noted by Maslow. We staff a School Nurse and a Middle School Health and Wellness teacher whose nutrition and health content is supported by additional science-teaching faculty members across the other divisions to provide instruction and meet physiological needs. There are also two Human Performance Coordinators, three Physical Education teachers, and a broad range of athletics coaches and support personnel to engage our students in physical activity throughout the school day and beyond. We also work in collaboration with Sage Food Services to ensure nutritional meals for our students. The Meadows School employs a Director of School Safety Administration and provides security guards under his supervision to cover essential safety needs. Finally, we staff three School Counselors to target the tiers of belonging and self-esteem. In addition to these faculty and in-school supports, we also offer after-school programs such as MAPS and LEAP for Beginning, Lower, and Middle School students as well as Summer Camp opportunities.

Another critical component of ‘the village’ is at-home support. In an effort to partner with families, Student Support Services held a Parent Coffee on how physical and mental health support academic performance. A link to the recording and presentation is included here for reference. For more information, additional resources, or to recommend topics for future Coffees or training, please connect with Dr. Kristin Withey, Director of Student Support Services.

References and Further Reading:

Dr. Kristin Withey
Director of Student Support Services

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