Holderness School

Study Hall Shakeup: Improving community, sleep health, and general well-being

Greg Kwasnik
It’s good to try new things.
That’s why, for most of November, Holderness students and faculty took part in an innovative Study Hall Pilot Program. Shaped with input from this year’s senior class, the pilot program made several changes to students’ evening schedules – all with the goal of improving their shared sense of community, sleep health, and general well-being.
The three-week program temporarily instituted the following changes:
  • Moved up study hall start time by 30 minutes, to 7:30 p.m.  
  • Opened Snack Bar to all students on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9:25 p.m. to 9:55 p.m. Snack Bar was open to seniors Monday – Friday from 9:55 p.m. to 10:25 p.m.
  • Opened all common rooms on campus on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9:25 p.m. to 9:55 p.m.
  • Instituted dorm intervisitation hours on Mondays and Fridays from 9:25 p.m. to 9:55 p.m.
The idea for the Study Hall Pilot Program arose from serious discussions between students, faculty, and administrators. “We are running the study hall pilot because the current senior class met last spring to discuss their goals for this year,” said Associate Head of School Tobi Pfenninger. “They asked if we could change the study hours to an earlier start time so that the students would have some time for socialization after study hall.” Additionally, students asked for dorm intervisitation privileges for students of the opposite gender. While intervisitation is typically granted on a per-request basis, seniors requested that it become part of students’ regular schedules. The pilot program also addressed concerns that students needed more food before bedtime. “We knew that many kids were hungry at night,” Tobi said. “So we wanted to open snack bar in the evenings for all students a few nights a week.”
While the Study Hall Pilot gave students more of what they wanted – increased opportunities for socialization and snacks in the evenings – it also attempted to address administrators’ concerns about overall student health. By moving study hall earlier in the evening and allowing more time to unwind before bed, the pilot program dovetailed with recent initiatives to promote healthy student sleep patterns. Backed up by the latest research on sleep and the teenage brain, those initiatives have included the adoption of the winter academic schedule - which established an afternoon start time for classes on Tuesday and Thursday - and the recent change of the campus-wide internet shutoff time from 1 a.m. to midnight.
Early reviews of the Study Hall Pilot Program are mixed, Tobi said. While many students enjoyed the opportunity to socialize or visit the gym after study hall, some felt rushed by the earlier study hall start time. The pilot program also required an adjustment for adults, who were on evening duty earlier than usual. For her part, Tobi enjoyed socializing with students during the pilot program. “I attended evening snack bar each night of the first week of the pilot. I felt like I got to know more kids during that time,” Tobi said. “There was food, music, and fun, and I wonder if this is even more important when the days get shorter and the nights longer during the winter.”
In the near future, a survey will be administered to all community members who participated in the Study Hall Pilot Program. The results of that survey will ultimately determine what permanent changes – if any – will be made to the evening schedule. It’s that kind of community feedback and involvement - the notion that students, faculty, and administrators have a say in their community - that gives Holderness School its unique character. It’s also what makes it an incredible place to live, learn, and grow. 

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Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness, NH 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257