CHALLENGE: Making room for kids to take a break without disrupting the classroom
The Relaxation Station is a project that began in early 2016. The idea arose because there was a high frequency of kids being sent to the office for behavioral problems. Until the Relaxation Station, the front desk office secretary was often the one processing through the reasons each child was there, while still trying to do her job effectively. “Kids would be lining the walls…” says Principal Robin Whitney, who was new to Marlborough School for the 2016-2017 school year. It was soon realized that many kids that ended up in the office were just in need of a break; a minute to get out of the classroom and to breathe. The amount of kids that were lining up in the office was disruptive and causing the children to lose out on valuable classroom time. That was the spark that began the Relaxation Station, a room that could be used to take a mental or physical break, and would reduce the amount of disruptions in the classroom.
SOLUTION: Create a physical space for a mental break
When the project began, Principal Whitney understood the importance of having a dedicated space and a dedicated staff member for the room. While both of those details are extremely important, they can also be difficult for schools to accomplish. Principal Whitney and the Marlborough School decided to make the financial commitment of hiring a staff person to be solely devoted to the Relaxation Station and the students who visit. Once the room was up and running, teachers had to be trained on the benefits of the room and its appropriate use. “There has definitely been a learning curve, and it has helped create a culture change within the school.” says Principal Whitney.
In the Relaxation Station, a benefit offered to all students, kindergarten through 8th grade, you will find different options for seating, tactile activities, books, and ideas for both movement breaks and coping strategies. There are two ways to visit the room, a student may choose to go because they are feeling overwhelmed and need a break from the classroom or a teacher may suggest that a student visit. However, it is very clear that there will be no discipline occurring in the room. If discipline is needed, the student will then visit the office instead. “One reason the room works so well…” says Principal Whitney, “…is that the space stays positive and safe for the students.”
Making sure to keep this constantly evolving project data driven, Marlborough School makes sure to document who has made trips to the Relaxation Station, how often, the reason for going, and whether they were sent or decided to go on their own. This has helped detect patterns and give kids that are frequent visitors more direct help.
When a student arrives, they will always meet with Ali Howard, the room teacher. Ali sits down with each student and gets their perspective on why they are visiting, whether they made the decision to visit on their on, or if they were asked to visit. Each student will also make a plan with Ali addressing how they will re-enter the classroom and what strategies they are going to use to make it through the rest of the class successfully. Each student is allowed approximately 5 minutes in the room before they have to make their way back to class. “I love the Relaxation Station!” says Ali Howard “It gives the students a comfortable place to settle. Students are able to process what’s going on in their daily lives. They are able to get the support they need and understand more about themselves as well. I think we could all use a Relaxation Station in our lives!”
“The Relaxation Station provides our students with a short break from the stress of their day while giving them support to understand why they are feeling stressed and how they can learn to relax and handle the stress. It is very important that the students feel they have somewhere to go and someone with whom to connect with. When these students’ needs are met immediately the outcome is usually most effective.” – Robin Whitney, Marlborough School Principal