“We are trying to keep things as connected as possible,” explains Ms. Bevacqua-Tirone. “Whether that is going outside as a group whenever weather permits, gathering on the Learning Stairs or working together on Google Docs.” The remote learners connect through Google Meet and engage in the group tasks whenever possible by collaborating via screen or on a Google Doc.
While there is no typical class, an example of a recent one involved a rotation of workshops. There was a session on Meditation led by Ms. B. Another session involved a walk outside led by Mr. Milonas who spoke about Gratitude, and the last was a lesson on Cognitive Bias, led by the Scientist among them – Ms. Houston.
When students learned they would not be marked for this course, instead it would be a credit/no credit system based on university approach where they would be marked on whether they are meeting or exceeding expectations – some were thrilled, and others disappointed. A teachable moment followed with an explanation of how rewards and marks can be detrimental to someone’s happiness. The three teachers explained that for this course in particular, it will be far more beneficial if they focus on the regular feedback, learning value, and individual assessments and remove the stress brought on by grades.
“We want to instill the tools on how to fill their happiness tire,” says Mr. Milonas. Essentially, the primary objective is to fill their students’ tool box with skills on how to live a happy life.
According to Dr. Laurie Santos, the Professor of Psychology who teachers the course at Yale, “Happiness is like a leaky tire, you just need to know when and how to fill it.” Mr. Milonas uses this quote in class quite a bit, “It’s about knowing how (the tools) and when to be able to fill or add air to our tire.”
Students are now creating a hypothesis for their own personal experiments and have started doing research to test it, all while documenting their own journey. In this “Happified Scientific Process,” their teachers arm them at the start of each class with clipboards and buttons with their assigned Human number, i.e. Human #7. Students eagerly request their buttons at the start of each class, as it draws attention to the scientific component of the course, and they go about gathering data as they challenge perceptions of well being and arrive at their own conclusions.
Their teachers are employing the Try, Why, Do strategy. The three help guide their students through the Try part, then advance them to the Why – where they assess research in the area and investigate what is happening in their brain, and that initiates the Do based on how it impacts them personally.
The students have already dubbed this the Happiness course, and according to one student, it appears to be achieving its objective.
“This course has exceeded my expectations and has been a great means for self-reflection and to explore concepts that challenge my perception of how to achieve a sense of well-being,” says Lauren Neil ’22. “It has been especially valuable, given the challenges we are currently facing. I expect that the strategies I have learned thus far will serve me well for the remainder of the school year and beyond.”