Play Hard, Live Clean Campaign Encourages Mindfulness and Kindness in Garrett County Public Schools

By Diane Lee, Public Information Officer, Garrett County Health Department

Elementary and middle school students recently completed the second Play Hard, Live Clean (PHLC) challenge of the school year.

At the elementary level, students engaged in at least 10 mindfulness exercises in a two-week period. These included things like drawing a picture of a happy memory, writing a note to their favorite adult or listening to some relaxing music.  Students could choose from a total of 25 mindfulness exercises, all designed to give participants tools to improve their focus and attention span. Most of the mindfulness activities were completed in the classroom.

At the middle school level, students were challenged to complete at least 10 acts of kindness in a two-week period, including things like holding the door open for the person walking behind them or thanking the cashier at the grocery store for working hard. Again, there were a total of 25 different kind acts that students could choose from.

“Our Play Hard, Live Clean planning team was really excited about these schools’ high participation,” reported Kendra McLaughlin, Director of Health Education and Outreach at the Garrett County Health Department and campaign organizer. “This campaign is an addition to the already long list of responsibilities of the teachers’, school nurses’ and administrators’, but they have placed a high priority on helping students adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors that will serve them well throughout their lifespans.”

The PHLC campaign is in its fifth year. It is designed to be a campaign that subtly and consistently reminds students across the grade levels that a healthy lifestyle takes practice and repetition. “The idea is that students will hear about the PHLC challenges year after year in their classrooms, along with the health lessons that are already being taught,” stated McLaughlin, “and maybe one day embrace one (or more) of the habits they have learned and practiced.”

At the elementary school level, participation in the PHLC challenges varies from school to school and from challenge to challenge. At Route 40 Elementary, 97% of the students completed the mindfulness challenge, with Accident and Friendsville Elementary close behind at 95% and 92%, respectively. At Grantsville Elementary, 67% of students completed the challenge; 43% at Swan Meadow; 35% at Crellin Elementary; 9% at Broad Ford Elementary, and 6% at Yough Glades.

At the middle school level, 47% of Southern Middle School (SMS) students completed the kindness challenge and 18% of Northern Middle School (NMS) students. The homeroom with the highest completion rate at SMS was Ms. Simms’ sixth-grade homeroom class with 92% completion.  At NMS, it was Mrs. Hershberger’s sixth-grade class at 100%. The students and teachers in these two classrooms received a Play Hard, Live Clean shirt. The next challenge is currently underway and is a challenge to drink more water.

At Southern and Northern High Schools, the PHLC campaign is fully online at Currently, 326 high school students are registered for the campaign and are given opportunities to complete monthly challenges. For February, a “Test Your Alcohol IQ” challenge was issued with 114 students having completed it. At the end of each month, a random student from each high school is selected for a $20 gift card to local establishments. (For February, the gift card was for Subway and the winners are pictured above.)

The only requirement to be eligible for the high school gift card drawing is that the student completes the monthly challenge. For every PHLC activity that high school students complete, they earn a point, and their cumulative points throughout high school are applied to scholarship entries their senior year. One $500 scholarship is awarded to a senior at Northern and one to a senior at Southern. To submit a scholarship application, students are required to agree to a social media scan to ensure that their social feeds are indicative of a healthy lifestyle.

For more information about PHLC visit the website or call the health department at 301-334-7730 or 301-895-3111.

Cutline: Monthly high school participants of the PHLC program are entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card to a local establishment. February’s winners are pictured above. On the left is Brianna Tasker, 9th grade, SHS, and on the right is Levi Broadwater, 12th grade, NHS.