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Winnacunnet High School Students "UnPlug" from their Digital Devices

HAMPTON – Superintendent Meredith Nadeau and Principal William McGowan are pleased to share that Winnacunnet High School students and staff recently participated in a school-wide challenge to unplug from their digital devices to raise awareness about how technology impacts their daily lives. 

Students prepared for the challenge during Warrior Study Blocks, where teachers showed videos and prompted discussion about social media and cell phone use. The WHS Student Council created a video about the challenge, and the school television station ran reports leading up to the day.

On Feb. 21, students arrived at school and were greeted by members of the Student Council and Student Athlete Leadership Team, who encouraged them to sign a pledge to unplug and intentionally shift to offline activities and in-person interactions from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Teachers were encouraged to integrate phone and laptop-free activities in classes throughout the day. The library had board games and puzzles, and students played trivia at lunch.

Students and staff also filled out slips describing why they decided to unplug from their devices, which were put on display in the hallways at WHS. 

Several students reported that people interacted more with each other and that spending the day without technology was easier than anticipated.

“It was a very heartwarming and eye-opening experience. I also enjoyed seeing everyone's faces in the hallways and had so much fun during lunch playing trivia, and really connecting with my friends and teachers," said Maddy Eaton, senior class historian. 

“I felt more social and free during the UnPlugged Day,” said Christian Peters, Class of 2027. “I was surprised how many students participated since phones are one of the most common things among all of us. I think students did a good job reducing their screen time and it made them a lot more social.”

Math Teacher Jay Miller, one of the event organizers, said he considered the day a great success: “We weren’t sure how the day would be received when we started planning a few months ago. But we are very happy with the impact it had.”

Another student reflected, “Conversations were so much more fulfilling without distractions,” while another said, “I felt more independent because I couldn’t Google everything."

Teachers, who are often frustrated with cell phone use during school hours, responded enthusiastically to the day.

“All my students said the day went by so much faster and even toward the end of the day, my students were still all-in and not thinking about taking their phones out,” said English Teacher Chellis Kirkland.

“Several students commented that they enjoyed the break from using their laptops. They liked working with paper and found that it enhanced their ability to focus,” said French teacher Kelley Richards. “They also commented that peers were less distracted because they were not receiving constant notifications on their cell phones during class."

Mental Health Counselor Tarnya Fegan said she sees the effect social media has on students: “The constant comparison to unrealistic expectations portrayed on social media can impact self-esteem, self-confidence, and body image. This day allowed students to get off their screens and connect."

WHS' participation in The UnPlug Challenge Day is one part of an overall initiative, The LookUp! Campaign. The Campaign has involved sharing instructional materials for teachers to use across content areas, scheduled “think tanks” for teachers to talk about cell phone management strategies and the importance of modeling the use of technology to foster innovation and creativity, and more. Committee members said they look forward to cultivating more awareness and activities throughout the year to support the balanced use of technology and to bring attention to the impact of cell phones and social media.

“Technology and cell phones are ubiquitous in our lives, with the average adult spending 4.5 hours per day on their phone,” said Tech Integration Educator Julie Hall, one of the campaign's initiators. “The increasing use of cell phones and technology in general often comes at the expense of face-to-face interaction and meaningful connections which has a big impact on our feeling connected in the world. It is something many of us, young and old, are struggling with.”


WHS students and staff filled out slips describing why they unplug as part of the UnPlug Challenge. (Photo Courtesy SAU21)


WHS students and staff filled out slips describing why they unplug as part of the UnPlug Challenge. (Photo Courtesy SAU21)

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