SANDPOINT – Students at Sandpoint Middle School arranged a mental health awareness walk for one last project of the school year.
Students in the Design for Change class at SMS took some time in May, being Mental Health Awareness Month, to plan a walk to raise awareness for mental health in their school. Held on June 3, the walk took participants from the middle school to Travers Park.
“May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and we wanted to make an effective and fun event to shed more light on mental health and its importance,” Molly Palfini SMS student said.
Design for Change is a student-led class that gives students the opportunity to use a process called “design thinking” to create activities and strategies to raise awareness and educate the student of SMS about the Sources of Strength program. Sources of Strength is a program used to create resiliency and emphasize positive mental health, seventh-grade counselor Kendall Lang said.
The design-thinking process is a step-by-step process that has students brainstorming ideas, creating solutions, implementing ideas/solutions, then reflecting on the solution to determine if the intended goal was met. The process also helps students learn to overcome obstacles they may encounter as they plan to bring their ideas to fruition, such as scheduling and ensuring the event went smoothly, said SMS students Sierra Todd-Murray and Ellie McDaniel.
“Getting the timeline right and reworking the daily schedule. We had to change how long classes were, figure out how to release classes to walk, and figure out how long it would take to do the walk,” Todd-Murray said.
“The organization of the walk and trying to figure out how to make it not chaotic,” McDaniel said.
For this year’s Design for Change class, Lang said it was paired with the Sources of Strength program to promote positive mental health in SMS throughout the entire 21-’22 school year.
However, the Design for Change class created and carried out a number of activities and awareness campaigns throughout the school year including a positive friend writing campaign, a random act of kindness challenge, raising 800 pounds of supplies for the Better Together Animal Shelter, sponsoring a classroom door decorating contest showing what activities students do to promote good mental health, the mental health awareness walks, and much more.
Although the planning did come with challenges the students, and teachers involved in the planning said the mental health walk was a success, with the entire SMS student body participating, and volunteers from the community and Sandpoint High School. Along with the community volunteers, students said the event was well-received by the community.
“Before the event, we were setting up signs, ribbons, and writing messages in chalk on the sidewalk. Two ladies who were walking in the park came by and said that it was super cool what we were doing. They liked the posters when we explained what we were doing and they liked the nice messages on the path. It made us feel success from the start knowing that two community members liked our work.” Todd Murray said.
After the walk, students who participated were asked to complete a survey about their experiences and thoughts. The positive feedback served as a highlight, aid SMS student Mya Williamson said.
“My favorite part was reading the feedback after the walk. Because it showed what kids really thought about the walk and I think it helped them,” Williamson said.