Pushing the Limits of High School Learning

Story by Rylee Robinson

Three Johnston High School students participate in the meditation during class.

Three Johnston High School students participate in the meditation during class.

Ever heard of a high school English class doing yoga together? In Kristen Gidel’s “Pushing the Limits” class, her students are learning about the importance of stress management and options they have for responding to challenges.

The class centers around studying people who have pushed their limits and what happens as a result. Students recently finished reading the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which follows a young man, Oskar, after his dad died in the Twin Towers during the September 11 terrorist attacks. Due to studying the book for a longer period of time, there was less time for the last unit.

“I didn’t want to rush the usual unit, I wanted to give it the proper study time,” said Gidel. “With all the AP testing and other class projects going on, I noticed the students were overwhelmed, and didn’t want to add to it by forcing this in.”

In previous years, the last unit the class focused on social, moral and ethical limits. After Gidel finished a book study about mindfulness for teachers and different ways students can learn, she realized there was a way to decrease student stress and still fit in another unit while applying her own learning.

“With the ever-changing face of students and their everyday lives I wanted to adapt the usual lesson,” said Gidel. “I was able to learn how to flip the application of learning onto the students through my book study. Having that on the students allows them to try new things and gives them, and me, a new classroom experience.”

Gidel will be having her students practice different ways to release stress in order for them to learn {stress} management. Students can be found participating in coloring, meditation, yoga, and different writing exercises like journaling. Along with these new techniques, they will also be reading articles and researching what things can cause us stress and how to deal with the pressure.

“This new unit provides the students with a brain break and an opportunity to learn differently,” said Gidel. “By giving them activities they are familiar with I can get them excited to participate. I tell them the purpose behind the things we are doing and they learn why each is important.”