Wellness 501

Transform Culture: Create Leaders, Champions, and Advocates for Wellness



The challenge:Teaching Resilience (Wellness) through the school
The Solution:Use peer coaches

Photo Credit: Armin Rimoldi (Pexels)

Program Overview

Wellness 501: Creating Champions for Wellness is IWE’s comprehensive, school-wide wellness initiative, Wellness 501: Whole-School Wellness.

This initiative is novel because it harnesses the power of peers. First, it trains student leaders as peer coaches. Then, the coaches conduct group sessions with peers in their grade or students from other grades. The concept for using peers as coaches is well established in the professional literature. Peers have been shown to be as, or more effective than adults in engaging other students in activities that foster social-emotional learning, healthy decision-making, and self-care for teens with chronic conditions.


Program Components

Wellness 501 offers activities for three groups::

Peer coaches: Student leaders train to become certified peer wellness coaches, leading wellness classes for other students and using evidence-based strategies to promote positive, lasting change.

Wellness class participants: Students become wellness advocates by taking wellness classes led by peer coaches and using interactive journaling as a primary learning tool.

Teacher and staff wellness champions: Teachers and staff model well-being themselves, and employ conversational and behavioral strategies in interactions with others to help establish new cultural norms.

Phase I

  • Peer wellness coaches train through an online course and live or asynchronous instructional support

  • Teachers and staff train through PD, and take the online wellness coaching course option

  • Competency assessment and course evaluation are conducted for the coach training

Phase II

  • Peer wellness coaches lead wellness class using interactive journals

  • Teachers/ and staff continue with PD sessions, support and supervision, and the (optional) online wellness coaching course

  • Real-time outcomes to assess interpersonal, intrapersonal, social, and overall wellness is monitored on a frequent basis among all wellness class participants. Outcomes assessment also include fidelity measurement

Phase III

  • Broad dissemination within the school community through continued practice, application, and sharing

  • Dissemination beyond the school community as program participants model and share



IWE’s instructional methods build practical skills. IWE‘s courses focus on helping students develop the mindset and practical skills that enable them to thrive. Our methods include direct instruction, video demonstrations, case-based assignments, deliberate practice, collaborative learning, real-time formative coaching and feedback, and frequent summative evaluation. These methods fulfill five key tasks for effect skill-building:

  • Discussing the importance of the skill, its relevance, and relationship to other learned skills

  • Presenting steps for developing the skill

  • Modeling the skill

  • Practicing and rehearsing the skill using real–life scenarios

  • Providing feedback and reinforcement

Training Materials

IWE provides the training and PD through interactive online learning activities, live and recorded video- and audio-conferencing, printed, hard-copy workbooks, consultation, and onsite training. Student peer-coaches then lead wellness classes that feature interactive journaling using printed, hard-copy workbooks.

How Is Student Achievement Recognized?

Recognition and celebration are key features of the program. Students earn certificates of completion and digital badges for their participation in either the coach training or the wellness course. Peer coaches become certified as wellness coaches through IWE, and may earn up to three units of college credit.

Peer-Wellness Groups Facilitate School Climate Change

The execution of Peer-Wellness Groups is the main differentiator between Wellness 101, Wellness 201 and Wellness 501. The newly certified Student Wellness Coaches are required to actually lead wellness groups for their peers (usually for students of other year levels). As part of Wellness 201, they will receive additional training in managing discussion groups, such as ice breakers, asking questions, active listening, role playing and to use Interactive Journaling® as a tool for self-discovery and reflection to promote lasting behavior change. Learning is experiential, draws from students’ own lives, and encourages participants to put into immediate practice the lessons they’ve learned.

This has two major impacts. Firstly the student coaches KNOW that the class is not just academic. They will actually have to lead a group of real people in discussions on wellness, feelings and other topics in our leaders guides. This promotes leadership and social and emotional learning. Secondly, the other members of the peer discussion group will be led through those discussions giving them a chance to be heard, express thier feelings, make new friends and feel involved in a non-judgemental group.

In Wellness 501, we take the concepts of Wellness 201 to a much bigger scale: A whole year level. In this program, trained student Wellness Coaches are paired up and run Wellness discussion groups (~15-20 students) for the WHOLE year level below them. Depending on the size of the school, this could range to a thousand students.

Wellness 501 contributes to the success of the group by running additional review sessions for the student coaches to share experiences and to learn from other student coaches.

Group sessions reinforce and build on students’ journaling experiences by giving them opportunities to discuss, rehearse, and role play new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. For both Wellness 201 and Wellness 501, teachers act as facilitators to handle administrative tasks, support students, and ensure that the environment fosters supportive interactions among participants. Where possible, teachers are requested not to actually participate in the discussions and to leave it to the student coaches to learn how to manage group discussions. As many as 100 students can be cultivated as champions for wellness because Wellness 501 engages all participants, both student peer coaches and participants in a program that makes a difference in their lives and influences and inspires those around them.


Although the pace of the student coach training is flexible, many US schools have found it useful to run 12-week traing cohorts, during the school term/semester, and to run the group sessions over a similarly long 12 week series of group discussion meetings (one hour per week).

In the Singapore context. it is recommended that the student coaches be drawn from the Pre-U 1 students. They would then run the group discussion sessions with Sec 4 students. In Junior Colleges, the coaches could be drawn from the Pre-U 2’s and the discussion groups with the Pre-U 1’s.

Evidence-Based Methods from NREPP Proven to Help Your Students

Every unit emphasizes practical skills rather than abstract concepts or theories. The strategies, models, and tools taught in the program are evidence-based, listed or adapted from programs in the US National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). They include cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused approaches, positive psychology, personal journaling, and behavior-change models developed by leaders in the field of behavioral science.

Flexible Curriculum to Suit Your Needs

Wellness 501 offers schools maximum flexibility because each unit is independent and can be offered alone or in different combinations. Units can be incorporated into core content classes, electives, free periods, after school and summer programs, guidance and counseling sessions, and college-and-career-prep classes. The units may be taught in sequence or any other way that best suits the unique needs of an individual class, cohort, or school.

The program is delivered to students online and is accompanied by a workbook that reinforces the online learning. Teachers receive a teacher’s manual and discussion guide to maximize the bene t of the online portion of the program. The program also measures student achievement and participation.

How Is Student Achievement Recognized?

Recognition and celebration are key features of the program. Students earn certificates of completion and digital badges for their participation in the wellness course.

Sample End-of-Program feedback from Student Wellness Coaches

What did you observe your participants doing or saying that would indicate they were getting something positive out of the program, even if they didn’t tell you about it?

They are constantly smiling, laughing, enjoying themselves.  They walk in with faces filled with stress or pain and walk out looking a bit happier.  They say hello to me in the halls.  They participate a LOT LOT more in group conversations.  It really is not just in what they say, but how they say it.

If you were to lead another group, what might you want to do differently or what new thing might you want to try out?

I would try to stray off the journal a bit more and incorporate some more creativity-inducing activities because my groups seemed to really like the skits.

What role would you like to see teachers take in future wellness classes led by peer coaches?

I wouldn’t change too much. The students themselves said that they would be even more uninterested if they had to listen to a teacher similar to all their other classes. Having only a one year age difference between coaches and students is definitely a plus because we can relate to each other better.

Give examples with details of at least one coaching skill that you would want to work on and improve.

It is sometimes hard to know what to say in awkward moments. I would like to get better at feeling the right thing to say in undesirable situations.

If this program were to happen next year, what role would you want to play if you could create any role for yourself?

If this program was happening next year, I would want to be an “encourager” for the future junior coaches. Thus, I could provide them with strategies that were effective for me the past year, by coaching them (without presenting them in the form of advice).

Finally, what two words would you would use to describe your overall experience in this wellness initiative?

Life changing.