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Learning About Happiness, Gratitude Inspires IDS Students

Retreat helps students using scientific research

During the annual middle school retreat at Independent Day School's Corbett Campus in Carrollwood, students reflected on how to achieve success by applying scientific research on happiness to their own lives and learning.

That scientific research on happiness, conducted by internationally renowned positive psychology expert Shawn Achor and explained in his motivational management video, "The Happiness Advantage," was the theme for the recent 2011 Middle School Retreat.

The retreat is a yearly middle school tradition that takes place over two mornings inside the school's Farish Center, and is led by Headmaster Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman, a training expert.

"Dr. Swarzman conducts these retreats exactly the way she does training for adults," said Middle School Division Leader Betty George. "Doing so sets a high level of expectation for the students. Treating them with dignity and respect also means we will receive it in return."

Students were organized into small groups at long tables, intermingling all grade levels. The goal was to give everyone an opportunity to learn together with classmates in other grades and encourage community building.

The retreat format integrated guided viewing of positive psychology expert Shawn Achor's motivational management video with time for individual reflection and journaling that was interspersed with small-team discussion facilitated by teachers.

This year's focus on Achor's research about the science of happiness showed students that the brain when primed to be positive and happy, outperforms the brain that is primed to be negative or even neutral.

Eighth grader Daniela Torres was eager to share the advantages of being a happy person with her family.

"Although I am usually positive, Shawn Achor's video triggered a certain consciousness, and ever since then, I have been watching my attitude and trying to truly make the best of everything," said Daniela. "I also began to ask myself, 'How can I make sure that I can spread the happiness to those who surround me?'"

Eighth-grade student Jonah Kornberg said having the opportunity to watch the video and reflect on its message taught him about how the brain works, in addition to the ways that he can make himself a better, more well-rounded person.

"This video taught me that life is limitless," said Jonah, "and it inspired me to be better in every way possible."

For more information on IDS, go to http://www.idsyes.com/.

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