Category Archives: Lower School

Editorial: Anxiety in Lower School Students

Over the next few weeks, “The Talon” will be releasing a series of stories regarding depression, anxiety, obesity, nutrition, sleeping habits, and time management. Sources were given the option to remain anonymous, as the topics are incredibly personal. Please be advised, some of the published stories may be disturbing to some readers.

“Momma, my tummy hurts!” my child said to me one day last school year. But was her stomach really hurting? Was she getting sick? I took her temperature; it was normal. I sent her off to school in the hopes that whatever was ailing her disappeared sooner rather than later. As thoughts of her raced through my mind the whole day, I went against my better judgement and searched her symptoms on everyone’s favorite diagnostic tool, WebMD. Believe me when I say I’m not a hypochondriac, nor did I think my child had some terminal illness based off of a stomachache. What I was trying to find, however, were other causes for stomach pains not correlated to illness. Much to my surprise, one of the first diagnoses was anxiety.

According to a 2004 study done by John V. Campo, MD, who is now the assistant dean of behavioral health and wellness; chief behavioral wellness officer; and professor at West Virginia University’s School of Medicine, “Scores of children and adolescents – nearly one in four – have chronic stomach pain”. With no physical symptoms other than the stomachache, doctors began looking for emotional distress in the patients. Out of 80 children and adolescents, 42 of the aforementioned patients had chronic stomachaches. Dr. Campo’s findings showed that 81 percent of the patients with chronic stomachaches “had either anxiety disorders or depression”. “Primary care doctors can expect that about 80 percent of children who have chronic stomach pain will have an anxiety disorder – and that about 40 percent will also have depression,” Dr. Campo noted.

While I understand this particular study was done more than 10 years ago, I find it hard to believe the data has changed exponentially. Alea Wise, a licensed medical health counselor in Gainesville, said that anxiety in students of Lower School age occurs through fears of performance and safety. “With the increase of school shootings and A.L.I.C.E. drills, children now live with the exposure to a potential lack of safety at school,” she explained. 

According to the Child Mind Institute, some of the more common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Refusing to go to school or having a hard time at school drop-offs
  • Difficulty participating in class and interacting with peers
  • Excessive worry about everyday things
  • Trouble answering questions when called on by the teacher
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Squirming
  • Frequent trips to the nurse (with complaints of headaches, nausea, stomachaches, or even vomiting)
  • Avoiding socializing or group work
  • Not turning in homework

As a parent, I often question myself as to how I can help my child with her anxiety, not make it worse. How can I help her get to the point where she isn’t upset to do her math homework (which includes a major emotional breakdown almost every night)? How can I reassure her of her intelligence or self-worth? “One of the biggest things parents can do is validate their child’s experience,” said Wise. She notes that children need reassurance that they are being heard and understood, “Whether that is an irrational fear or intense emotion,” Wise explained.

While I know my child isn’t the only one dealing with anxiety, and I know I’m not the only parent with a child that has a disdain for math, I think it’s important that as parents we become equipped with the tools to help our children get through elementary, middle, and high school as unscathed as possible. Now, I realize I can’t put my daughter in a bubble, or even create an outfit out of bubble wrap. Sometimes life can be incredibly unfair. We want to protect our children; not allow them to make the same mistakes we did. Without those mistakes, however, we would not be the individuals we are today. With all the technology available at our fingertips, the extracurricular activities our children participate in after school and on the weekends, and how busy our lives are, we sometimes forget to just sit and listen to what our kids have to say. 

With my child’s particular situation, we sat down after school and just talked. She told me how she was worried about scary things her classmates were telling her (like “Bloody Mary” and the “Chucky” movies). Her stomachache was related to the anxiety she was facing at school, and the fear the other students were putting into her brain. After I told her that none of those things were real, I paused for a couple of seconds and said, “But I can see how that stuff can scare you”. That was it. That was me listening and understanding her fear and helping her face the anxious feeling deep in her stomach. Now, three months into this school year, I believe her current anxiety is completely justified…math!

LS Students Enjoy Math and Science Night

On Nov. 5, third through fifth grade Oak Hall students participated in the annual Math and Science Night. The Lower Schoolers had numerous rooms to choose from, including an escape room, an estimation room, microscopes, searching for shark teeth, tower building, and catapulting erasers. Students who earned stamps from certain rooms, onto a passport, received a special prize at the end of the night.

OHS Honors Veterans

By Amanda Malnik

On Nov. 11, Oak Hall students will celebrate the lives and memories of veterans that have served our country with assemblies. Upper and Middle School students will attend one joint assembly at 9:30 a.m. in the theater. Michael Martinez, Director of Technology, plans the assembly. Martinez started the tradition of having a Veterans Day Assembly 20 years ago when he was the only veteran at the school. “Every year we bring in a veteran [from] widely different backgrounds. Sometimes we’ll have people from the school who are veterans speak,” Martinez explained.

The veteran will teach students in sixth through 12th grade what it means to be a veteran and their unique experience of serving our country. Once the presentation is complete, students will engage in a question and answer session with the veteran. Martinez finds that the question and answer session can sometimes be the most fascinating part of the assembly to students. He elaborated that the main purpose of the assemblies is to show students that veterans were just like them at one point in their life. “We went to high school, and we sat in audiences just like they did. Nothing extraordinary about us except that we put our life on the line,” Martinez articulated. 

In the Lower School, students in second through fifth grade will attend and participate in a Veterans Day Assembly at 1:30 p.m. in the Lower School multi-purpose room. Erin Cushing, one of the Lower School music teachers, described the assembly as an educational and musical assembly that will answer questions such as, “When is Veterans Day?, What is Veterans Day?, Who is a veteran?, Why do we honor our veterans?, and How can we honor our veterans?,” Cushing explained. Students will run the entire assembly with minimal teacher assistance.

To begin the assembly, a group from The Veterans of Foreign War will come to present the colors. fifth grade students write and perform their own speaking parts for the presentation. In addition, patriotic songs will be performed throughout the assembly. The families of second through fifth grade students will be invited to the assembly to watch. In addition, a letter will be sent to students inviting veterans from their families to come to the assembly, and be recognized for their service. 

Oak HALLoween Photo Gallery

From the youngest pre-kindergartner to the oldest senior, along with faculty, and staff dressed up yesterday for Halloween. The Lower School, keeping the tradition alive, paraded around the Upper School circle, showing off costumes such as velociraptors, butterflies, and ghosts. Kindergartners partnered with their senior buddy, some in matching costumes.

In the afternoon, Lower School classrooms transformed from a learning environment to a spooky party atmosphere. While students snacked on fruit, cupcakes, and popcorn, they also played games like wrapping a classmate in toilet paper!

Photos courtesy of Audrey Clark, Michael Moreschi, Frannie Perez, Jenna Poppell, and Hannah Streeter

LS Running Club Prepares Students for Success

By Madison Gaston

Eagles are soaring all over Oak Hall’s campus with the Lower School’s Running Clubs! As part of the Community Sports League, Running Club gives students the opportunity to become lifelong runners while learning how to obtain a healthy lifestyle.

Oak Hall has three different levels of running for its students. There are Eaglets, the preschool and kindergarten runners; Running Club for first through fifth grade; and the Soaring Eagles Morning Running Club for second through fifth graders. 

Jeff Malloy, Director of Operations, and Danielle Tripp, Assistant Director for Summer & Auxiliary Programming, oversee the program, while Kelly Neale, physical education teacher Brittany Schutte, and fourth grade teacher Jackson Rodgers coach the Eaglets, Soaring Eagles Morning Run, and Running Club. “Running Club supports young runners by preparing them for Middle and Upper School level running,” Malloy said.

Each of Oak Hall’s Running Clubs meet during both semesters to learn proper stretching techniques. It’s not all work, however, as the students participate in fun running challenges and games. The Eaglets meet 10 times a semester for 30 minutes; Running Club meets 30 times a semester for one hour, and Soaring Eagles Morning Runners meet 24 times a semester for 30 minutes each.

The Eaglets run from 3:35-4:05 p.m., Soaring Eagles Morning Runners run from 7:15-7:45 a.m., and Running Club runs from 3:35-4:40 p.m.. As a result, students can run out all their built up energy from the school day!

Although the runners do not compete in races, there are mileage goals for the Soaring Eagles Morning Running Club, where they can earn “foot tokens” for every five miles. Furthermore, the club challenges its runners to reach their fullest potential. “We are enjoying our largest enrollment in the history of running club and have 102 participants,” Malloy said happily. 

For more information regarding Running Club or other sports in the Community Sports League, please visit: