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INSIGHTS • Health and Wellness • Curriculum Deep Dives 2019

Lisa Busby, Strategy Advisor

INSIGHTS is an ongoing series of blog posts published by members of the PBS faculty, providing a lens into how the PBS faculty thinks about curriculum development, teaching and learning, professional development, and other topics central to executing the school’s mission every day. In this multi-part series of INSIGHTS articles, PBS faculty will share updates on important school-wide initiatives, including the annual Curriculum Deep Dive and Phillips Brooks Summer Institute projects.

This June, our Curriculum Deep Dive team examined three interdependent facets of the health and wellness program at PBS: physicalsocial–emotional, and environmental.

When examining physical health and wellness, we focused on our current physical education and athletics programs, comparing them both to peer schools and also nationally recognized thought-leaders in preschool through 5th-grade physical education. We also unpacked nutrition at PBS, looking specifically at lunch and birthday/class celebrations.

Looking through the social–emotional lens, we discussed the emotional-intelligence underpinnings of our physical education program, including sportsmanship, collaboration, and risk-taking, in the context of the overarching goals of the emotional intelligence program at PBS.

Our study of environmental health and wellness led us to examine our current outdoor education programs, as well as how we teach students to be stewards of the environment.

For all three, we discussed strengths and growth areas in how each is implemented and assessed each year.

The programs/schools we studied as models included Greenwich Country Day, Harker, Hillbrook, Keys, Khan Lab School, Menlo Park School District, and Sacred Heart Atherton. The national hubs we examined included,, the California standards in physical education, and We reached out to the California Association of Independent Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools, and a nationally-known athletic director for their recommendations for model schools and programs. A member of our team spoke with the K–5 athletic department chair at Harker to plan a fall exchange visit. As part of this “looking out” process, which is central to the Curriculum Deep Dive methodology, we also discussed ideas for a new PBS community center and how our physical education and athletic programs could creatively adapt to a construction phase, as well as grow in scope and scale in a new facility.

Findings and Next Steps


  • PBS sees wellness as a big-picture priority that includes physical education, recess, nutrition, emotional intelligence, adult role models, and caring for our environment.
  • At PBS, students come first; their growth, safety, and emotions are prioritized by the school.
  • PBS is focused on teaching and instilling healthy habits in students. Exercise is not used as a punishment, and competition does not interfere with students’ embodying sportsmanship skills.
  • Students and adults are positively present at practices and games.
  • Across the K–5 grade levels, students are getting an equitable amount of physical education time, which is well aligned with national standards and other schools in the area.
  • Physical education teachers assess that they have the equipment they need to operate the current program effectively.
  • Students look up to our teachers and recognize they’re learning life lessons in addition to physical education skills.

Goals for short-term implementation

  • Formalize recess training and expectations for all faculty, our "recess reset" plan for the 2019-20 school year, and all related recess communications to students and parents.
  • Identify a model for a 2019-20 PBS Field Day that includes American sports, international sports, non-competitive physical activities (i.e. yoga, meditation, dance) and classic games like potato-sack racing and egg tosses. The CDD team will propose a Field Day to the admin team in August.
  • Map physical education skills across the grades and months for the 2019-20 school year.
  • Conduct a curriculum exchange with the director of K–5 physical education at Harker, Jim McGovern.

Long-term questions and opportunities for growth

  • The physical education program as it currently exists is significantly space-inhibited, especially when weather or other conditions, like air quality, require that we move activities indoors. Investing in a community center that contains adequate space for two classes to engage in indoor PE activities is an important way to improve the program. This also would create literal room for growth for our health and wellness programs and would bring the physical education program in line with other specialist subjects, all of which have their own designated learning spaces.
  • When physical education teachers are so knowledgeable and veteran, it can be easy to fall into what we know and what’s comfortable. How do we push ourselves to look into new practices and keep things fresh? How do we push ourselves to try new things? What professional development opportunities would help facilitate this?
  • In the physical education curriculum, how can PBS create more cross-grade learning opportunities? How do we integrate useful and effective technology?
  • Investigate how occupational therapy intersects with physical education. What physical education activities that include occupational therapy could benefit all students?
  • How could physical education intersect with other learning such as Spanish, science, global citizenship, math, music, movement?
  • How can the new science team integrate environmental wellness and sustainability?
  • How can we effectively assess the PBS lunch program?
  • How can we eliminate single-use plastic in the student snack and lunch programs?
  • How can we enrich parent education in health and wellness at PBS?

Lisa Busby served PBS as Associate Head of School from 2014–2017. In this role, she built upon PBS’s strong school culture through curriculum development, strategic initiative implementation, support of the middle school application process, and supporting preschool through 5th-grade faculty and families. Lisa's current role is focused on strategic planning and guiding 5th grade families through the application process. She serves on the Board of Directors of Challenge Success, a Stanford-based organization. Lisa lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.

  • CDD
  • health and wellness
  • insights


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