Fourth and Fifth Grade Health in the Redwoods

Mount Madonna School (MMS) offers a unique health class for fourth and fifth grade students that teaches a holistic view of health and all it encompasses, while utilizing the school’s serene 380-acres for learning. 

“We teach so much more than just physical health,” said teacher Kami Pacheco, “although of course that is important. Our bodies and minds and hearts are connected.”

The weekly course offers lessons in communication skills, conflict resolution, anti-bullying and inclusion, body image, nutrition, stress reduction, peer pressure, internet safety and media consumption, to name a few. 

“We’re also learning what it means to have a growth mindset…to see ourselves as works-in-progress,” Pacheco said. “It’s important for children to understand that failure is really just another step on the way to future successes.”

Pacheco makes the most of the majestic outdoor areas at MMS to provide opportunities for student meditation, self-reflection and journaling. 

“I love to give the class a quiet place to think about the topics we’re learning,” she commented. “Last week, we spenttime in the redwoods reflecting on our self-identities. It was a great way to kick off some of the concepts we’ll be learning this year.” 

Fourth grade student Kailani Houston enjoyed how the class shared their reflections after, if they felt comfortable doing so. “I liked the calm environment and everyone cheering me on,” she said.  

“I really liked how I wrote down what I felt. It was very calming,” shared fifth grade student Vivienne Gulizia. 

Later in the semester, the class will take on scientific topics such as the nervous system, digestive system, the musculoskeletal system, immune system and disease prevention, and more. The lesson always ties back to the students’ personal experiences and how health is relevant to their daily lives. 

“In November, we will take a reflective hike into the woods with our journals to sit quietly and write down all the things that we are grateful for, both big and small,” said Pacheco. “It’s a great tool to help improve our mood and eliminate stress. This is a practice the students can learn to continue on their own.” 

The class aligns with many of the core values of a Mount Madonna School education:  intellectual inquiry that fosters curiosity and self-discipline, experiential outdoor learning that prioritizes an interconnectedness with nature and self, the development of relationships based on self-acceptance, openness and empathy, and communal experiences that cultivate a sense of belonging. Every class and program at MMS works to support these values so that its students become compassionate, articulate and discerning individuals who share their talents and passions with their community to meet the challenges of our day. 


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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