The Dimensions of Health and a New Twist on the Wellness Wheel

By: Anita Scheffer

Photo by VisionPic .net on

If you’re a teacher, then I’m sure you will agree that you have no idea where the last two months have gone because of how busy you’ve been. Honestly though, I feel as if we were just in the month of March, transitioning over to full remote teaching and learning. We spent the summer on all things professional development, packing up classrooms, and preparing for whatever situation we were going to be heading into. I worked so hard over the summer, as many teachers did, to create exciting virtual lessons in the event we were fully virtual again. I even attended the @AMLE Virtual Summer Camp.

The district I teach in went back face-to-face with several classes of students who opted to learn virtually, so I am teaching multiple different ways this year. While emptying my classroom during the summer, I had a moment where I felt very sad and overwhelmed for all of us in education, especially the students. This was going to be a year we would never forget. Here we are, almost two full months into the school year, and while our experiences might be different, one thing is for certain; remaining positive and teaching children as best as we can, is our top priority, no matter what the circumstances. And I have to say, I kinda like my cart now.

I always begin the year with icebreakers and introductory activities, immediately followed by Dimensions of Health and the Wellness Wheel. For years, I taught the Health Triangle which is what I learned way back when I was a student at Hunter College in New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I love using the Health Triangle for a quick introduction to the three main components of health, but once I was introduced to the Eight Dimensions, I had such an appreciation for the many aspects of health that are important for our students to recognize and remember.

The Health Triangle is made of up three sides, each representing an important side of our health that we want to be balanced. They are of equal importance and influence one another in both positive and negative ways. The Dimensions of Health/Wellness Wheel is in the shape of a circle, and includes eight different aspects of health, all of which interact together to determine our quality of life or well-being.

A few years ago, when I was revamping my sixth grade health curriculum, I was looking for and creating lessons that were skills and project-based. I stumbled across Janelle Kay’s Project School Wellness curriculum and was instantly excited to incorporate her lessons into my teaching. The Wellness Wheel activity is available for free on her website. How cool is that? The goal is to help students to understand that “health is multidimensional” and that “everything is connected.” Through this activity, we want them to learn that it is important to “thrive instead of merely just surviving.” Some may say that this is a lesson for older children, but I feel that it is imperative to teach higher order thinking and get kids to have a positive growth mindset as early as possible.

Photo Courtesy of Janelle Kay

Initially, I had my students fill out the wheel on printed handouts. I had them take a look at what they do well in each particular area, as well as what they needed to improve upon in order to have healthy futures. One semester, I decided to have them use the handout as a draft and then turn it into an art project. I have so many students who love to draw, so they were all over this suggestion. The students who either didn’t like to, or couldn’t draw, asked if they could create their wheels on the computer. One student asked if the wheel had to be round, and I asked what shape she would rather it be, and she said, “how about a flower or a heart?” So I told her to have at it, and a new take on the Wellness Wheel was born. Every year I look forward to this project and the artistic creations my students come up with. They are setting goals and making positive life changes, while at the same time, having fun.

Another amazing activity that can be used to teach the Dimensions of Health is Andrew Milne’s @carmelhealth Dimensions of Wellness card game which can be found on his #slowchathealth blog. “Students deal out cards that represent the 10 dimensions of wellness and decide whether that card would indicate a more or less healthy student.” This game can be used with middle and high school students, however, you would need to use your own discretion with the younger children when it comes to the cards dealing with sexuality.

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Milne

The cards are pre-made and ready for printing and laminating. I made several sets so students could be separated into groups. Now that we are in the midst of COVID, unfortunately, we won’t be sharing anything in the classroom, but there is no reason why we can’t use these virtually with the help of @GoogleSlides, @peardeck or @nearpod with our face-to-face students. I love that these cards provide students with ready-made situations to think about and discuss.

No matter how you decide to teach the components of health, always keep in mind that we want to walk away from that lesson knowing that our students were able to think for themselves, set goals for the future, and in this case, have fun while learning how.