- School Life
The lights are dimmed in the new lower school reset room. Cloud shades cover the sharp fluorescent light that usually filters into the new room in the Primary Building Library. A small trampoline and a spin disc line one wall, with an adjustable nugget chair on the back wall in the shape of a tent. Two students from Caroline Doctor and Sarah Schopflin’s kindergarten classroom demonstrate some of the new mindfulness and occupational therapy tools that interim wellness counselor Miriam Zavagnin and classroom teachers use to assist students in finding balance during their school day.
“Jump on the trampoline and sing your ABCs,” Miriam directs one student. The goal of the exercise is to help students who need support by releasing energy.
The room began through a conversation between a lower school team consisting of Miriam, Caroline, lower school principal Dr. David D'Ercole, curriculum coordinator Molly Doherty and occupational therapist Marcy Reidel, on how to help students manage their emotions.
“In the past, what students would do is if a student needed to calm themselves, they were sent to the office. Now, students can come to a safe space and reset their emotions and get into a calming situation where they are productive the rest of the day.”
The students are in the room for approximately 5-10 minutes. Should teachers need additional assistance, Miriam is there to guide them. A detailed lesson plan of how to utilize the new tools and what the intended goals of the objects, illustrated by Caroline Doctor, is available to aid teachers in the process. Some tools, such as weighted blankets, can be checked out to use in the classroom.
“What we try to uncover is what a child’s resistance is trying to tell us,” she said. “We will ask the children how they are feeling and we have an emoji chart on the wall in which we have them point to it to start to understand their current feelings. We talk with them about the mind and body connection, and how they have control over their actions. It’s so big for them to understand that they are in control of their emotions. By the time they are done, we hope their feelings have changed to something more positive.”
Some children have additional needs, and Miriam sets up a dedicated time for them to identify helpful ways to reset and remain present in the classroom. “By the second week, we start to wean them off of the room, because by that point, we should feel encouraged they have moved past their challenge.”
David sees the benefits of the new room. “The room provides a private, quiet space for students to calm themselves. It's a compassionate way to show them that we care, even when they are not behaving appropriately. It also provides them with concrete skills to help recover from a 'rough start' in the future.”