Wellness Programming for Students and Parents

At Rivers, we believe that research-based prevention programs promote healthy development by focusing on children and their main socializing environment—school. These programs are implemented in classroom settings, at school or grade-level assemblies, and through “opt-in” programming during students’ free time. Wellness programming encourages students to integrate accurate information with their personal and family values. Our aim is to strengthen connections between students and their parental figures as the primary sources of support in their lives, and to help students learn to access auxiliary support in appropriate ways.

Student Wellness Programming
• Middle School: programs on nutrition, healthy relationships, individual biological development, and substance education. 
• Upper School: programs include the trimester-long 9th Grade Seminar course, grade-specific drug and alcohol education, and senior post-secondary transition programming. 

Optional Student Wellness Programming
Because students and families come to Rivers with different skill sets, experiences, values, and areas of both expertise and room for growth, our Wellness curriculum includes a range of “opt in” programming options. These programs address topics including physical fitness and health, social-emotional wellbeing and mental health, and “life skills” education. This programming also includes psycho-educational group counseling options for students who want to engage with peers and licensed school adjustment counselors regarding topics that are meaningful to them on a personal level.

Parent/Caretaker and Family Wellness Programming
We offer “parent coffee” discussion groups with presentations by our visiting educators and community partners. Examples of parent coffee presenters include a consultant who teaches about substance use prevention and stress management, a community-based health educator with expertise on comprehensive sexuality education, and clinical psychologists who specialize in working with adolescents on issues such as anxiety, time management, and learning differences.

This year, we will also be piloting two new programs:
• Parent “roundtable” discussions on topics relevant to our families

• Parent book groups on a shared text that focuses on adolescent development

The vision for our roundtable discussions is that we provide opportunities for parents to come together to hear a brief “keynote” presentation on a topic of interest, such as parenting in the digital age or supporting the college transition for students with learning differences, and then to open up the floor for parent-to-parent discussion around related questions, concerns, experiences, and scenarios. Book groups will be piloted to facilitate learning and discussion of topics particularly relevant to the Middle and Upper School experiences. Please see calendar on main page for upcoming parents events.


Wellness Programming In-depth

List of 3 items.

  • Middle School Wellness Programming: Overview by Grade

    • Grade 6
    Sixth grade students have the opportunity to participate in optional wellness programs and in workshops held during the weeks in between sports seasons.

    • Grade 7
    ° Nutrition
    7th graders have three nutrition classes with Registered Dietician/Nutritionist Leslie Judge, MS, RD, LDN (Rivers alumna 1995). These “Nutrition 101” classes provide a foundation of knowledge and each have specific focus: 1) Nutrition 101: “The Basics,” 2) “Making Choices,” and 3) “Practical Applications.”

    ° Individual Biological Development/ Puberty
    Health educator Kim Comatas teaches about the anatomy and physiology of individual biological development and puberty. Through her work with an organization called Partners in Sex Education (PiSE), Kim has presented to 8th and 9th graders at Rivers for several years, and she now brings PiSE’s specialized and adaptive middle school curriculum to 7th graders this year. Kim’s class sessions align with the content of the 7th grade science textbook’s section on reproductive systems, and she also addresses personal hygiene in the context of puberty.

    Seventh grade students also have the opportunity to participate in optional wellness programs and in workshops held during the weeks in between sports seasons.

    • Grade 8
    ° Drugs, Alcohol, and Stress Management: Substance Use Education and Prevention
    An overarching goal of this prevention programming is to normalize non-use of substances and to challenge the misperception that all, or even most, teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol. Rather than focus on the percentage of teenagers who do use drugs or alcohol, the classes aim to highlight the greater majority of adolescents who remain substance-free throughout high school. Delayed use—making it at least out of high school without using substances—is the most important protective factor that reduces the risk of addiction later in life. This messaging ties in with the 8th grade’s focus on cultivating leadership: One way that 8th graders can lead by example and “be their best selves and positively influence others” is by challenging the cultural myth that adolescent substance use is a “normal” and necessary rite of passage. This programming also focuses on the role that stress plays in substance use, and includes a stress-management component.

    ° Boundaries, Consent, and Healthy Relationships
    The Partners in Sex Education’s "Healthy Relationships" curriculum is a science- and information-based program that parent(s)/guardian(s) augment with the important "value" based discussions that should happen at home. The five session curriculum focuses on the important role that consent plays in all relationships (romantic and platonic), gender and sexual identity, biological development and puberty, and the reproductive systems.

    Eighth grade students also have the opportunity to participate in optional wellness programs and in workshops held during the weeks in between sports seasons.
  • Upper School Wellness Programming: Overview by Grade

    Grade 9
    All ninth grade students participate in the 9th Grade Wellness Seminar once a week during their first trimester at the Upper School. The goal of the seminar course is to provide a foundation of Health, Wellness, and Life Skills for all 9th grade students. Some individual classes are co-taught by Rivers Faculty members, sometimes with the assistance of older Upper School students, while other feature outside presenters who specialize in a particular content area. All of our instruction focuses on giving students information so that they can make sound decisions that align with their personal goals and values. Through these classes, we push students to challenge their assumptions, check their facts, and have open dialogue about important topics. Specific content is modified each year so that the course content is responsive to the unique needs and interests of each 9th grade class, but the seminar curriculum always includes education on topics of risk management, healthy relationships, substance use, and stress management, as well as both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

    ° 9th Grade Wellness Seminar Course Topics (Fall 2017):

    Foundations of Wellness

    Risk Management

    Consent and Healthy Relationships- Facilitated by Kim Comatas from Partners in Sex Education

    Biological Development and Sexuality Education- Facilitated by Kim Comatas from Partners in Sex Education

    Drugs, Alcohol, and Stress Management- Facilitated by Will Slotnick from Wellness Collaborative

    Physical Health/ Healthy Living

    Personal Identity and Diversity

    Mental Health Education and Suicide Prevention

    Life at Rivers: Q&A with Rivers Senior Student Advisors

    • Grade 10
    ° Drugs & Alcohol Prevention programming
    Through this programming, Will Slotnick, founder and director of The Wellness Collaborative, incorporates stress management and mindfulness training into substance education. In addition to educating students on the effects of substances on the developing brain, for example, he explains that it is important for students to address the root causes of experimentation with drugs and alcohol (such as stress and pressure in adolescents’ lives). This prevention programming aims to equip students with a “toolbox” of internal coping skills and external supports that provide safe, healthy, and socially-validated alternatives to substance use. In his classes, Will introduces students to mindfulness and other stress reduction practices, and he addresses a wide range of topics indirectly related to substance use, including sleep deprivation and technology dependence.

    • Grade 11
    Eleventh grade students also have the opportunity to participate in optional wellness programs, such as an after-school mindfulness course and workshops on nutrition. These opt-in programs are offered after school, sports, and conservatory commitments.

    • Grade 12
    ° Senior Transition Programming
    “What’s Not in the Viewbook” - A Senior dinner and open discussion with Tufts University Dean of Students, Mary Pat McMahon on typical challenges that arise during one’s first year in college.

    ° “Consent and Personal Safety Day” - A full day program just prior to graduation to discuss consent, healthy relationships, physical safety, and personal health in the context of being a legal adult and college student.


  • Archive of past parent events (Fall 2017)

    • 9th and 10th Grade Parent Coffee on Upper School Drugs & Alcohol Prevention Programming, with Will Slotnick from the Wellness Collaborative

    • 11th and 12th Grade Parent Coffee on Upper School Drugs & Alcohol Prevention Programming, with Will Slotnick from the Wellness Collaborative

    • 9th Grade Parent Coffee on Sexuality Education in Wellness Seminar classes, with Kim Comatas from Partners in Sex Education

    • Middle School Parent Coffee on 8th grade Drugs & Alcohol Prevention Programming, with Will Slotnick from the Wellness Collaborative

    • Middle School Parent Coffee on 7th grade Nutrition Programming, with Registered Dietician/Nutritionist Leslie Judge, MS, RD, LDN

    • Middle School Parent Coffee on 7th grade Individual Biological Development and Puberty Programming, with Kim Comatas from Partners in Sex Education

    • Parent League Coffee and Conversation with John Bower, Director of Diversity and Inclusivity, and Ben Liston, Director of Wellness and Counseling: “Working toward Honest Communication: Increasing the Frequency and Depth of Parent/Child Dialogue Around Difficult Topics”