Student council aims to relieve final exam-induced student stress


Kaity Gee

A cheerful therapy dog comforts a student at the Edge last year. ​Student council plans to continue the tradition of bringing in therapy dogs to relieve student stress.

by Prameela Kottapalli, Reporter

The Associated Student Body (ASB) and student council are making efforts this year to help reduce student stress during second semester finals.

Rising sophomore class president and former freshman class president Kelsey Wu (9), who helped organize therapy dog visits around exam time last semester, is planning on working with the student council to bring therapy dogs to the school during the upcoming finals week.

“We’re planning on bringing in the therapy dogs this year if the owner is available,” Kelsey said. “We also brought in some therapy animals for students to play with during AP exams. Harker students usually have quite a lot of stress, and we’re aiming to relieve some of this stress during these few days of very tightly packed tests.”

In past years, therapy dogs have provided students with an outlet for stress and pre-test anxiety. During the AP exams in April, ASB officers organized a petting zoo in the quad that gave students the opportunity to spend time with various small animals, including rabbits and turtles. Last semester, student council collaborated with track and field coach Scott Chisam to bring in the stress-relieving pets.

According to a study published in 2003 by the University of Missouri-Columbia Center for the Study of Animal Wellness, the act of petting a dog results in a massive rush of beneficial hormones, which reduces production of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving people feeling content and relaxed.

When rising ASB treasurer and former Class of 2017 treasurer Ray Song (11) was on the freshman and sophomore councils, student council also organized shared Google Drive folders for students to create and work on study guides together.

“What my class council did freshman year and sophomore year was we set up Google Docs for students to freely share study guides that the whole class could use,” Ray said. “They would write together as a class, make edits, and had folders for different teachers for different classes. It’s one of the most helpful and substantial things because you can directly have students who study more efficiently; it saves them a lot of time and reduces a lot of stress.”

While the Harker student council is planning to bring in therapy dogs to de-stress students during exam week, the student governments of other Bay Area schools have other activities planned to help students take a breather at this busy time of the year. Prospect High School student Alexandra Janssen (9) spoke about the activities her school has planned for the Friday before finals.

“[The administration] put together games and activities to take our minds off finals and relieve stress,” Alexandra said. “We are having a fun field day on Friday and a color run in our quad.”

Palo Alto High School (Paly) organizes a “Field Day” every year before finals to promote student relaxation and bonding. Makayla Webster, a sophomore at Paly, explained the purpose behind having a Field Day at this point in the year.

“Toward the end of the school year, Paly plans a field day which is a day with 45-50 minute class periods and an extra long lunch and during that lunch there are fun and games,” Makayla said. “The staff plans this every year because many students get very stressed out about upcoming finals, so this day is great because students get to to release all of that tension. You always have to remember that you need to have some fun sometimes.”

This semester, certain English classes are not giving finals and various instructors are distributing their finals the week previous to finals, such as the World History 1 teachers. Dean of the Upper School Kevin Williamson hopes that this will contribute to students being less anxious and sleep-deprived during the final week of school.

“Classes are done for the year and exams start a little bit later for students to feel like they have a little bit more free time to prepare for exams,” Williamson said. “I’m assuming that students are getting enough sleep having their exams start later, and some exams are cancelled. Spreading [the tests] out is another way to relieve stress.  I would encourage students to talk to student council representatives if they are feeling stressed and suggest ideas to their council officers so that we can put things in place if they would like to see us do more.”

Currently, student council plans on working with administration to discuss other measures to decrease student stress levels, including the possibility of teachers dropping each student’s single lowest assessment score.

“Sometimes students are very stressed because of all their [extracurriculars] and if they just bomb one test, their grade will drop a lot,” Kelsey said. “One of the things I’m trying to work on right now is talking with the administration so students will be able to drop one test.”

Finals take place next week from Wednesday June 1 to Friday June 3, with history finals taking place on Wednesday, science finals occurring on Thursday, and math and language finals happening consecutively on Friday.