Charleston County School District to spend $1M on calming rooms
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The soft bubbling of a fountain, comfortable chairs and the soothing sounds of rain. They are features installed in a specific classroom designed to instill a sense of calm.
“We actually have someone who staffed in here that leads kids through mindfulness activities like breathing, doing yoga, all different kinds of things,” school psychologist Carolyn Mims said. “It’s just a place where, with all of the anxiety we know that both adults and kids have right now, that kids can kind of just relax and then learn some techniques hopefully to help them self-regulate.”
The mindfulness room at Moutrie Middle School was established before the pandemic but it has now become the template for calming rooms going up all across the Charleston County School District. Mims says after two years of lockdowns, virtual learning and everything else the pandemic has thrown at them, students are stressed.
“It’s important that they are learning some strategies to handle anxiety,” Mims said. “Breathing is a huge way that kids can self-regulate and handle their anxiety.”
The district’s own data shows suicide assessments have gone up 45 percent since last year. That’s why they’ve dedicated $1 million in funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to the supplies and staff needed to install calming rooms in as many schools as possible.
“I think that learning these coping strategies is really, really important because not only does it stop students from things like suicide,” Mims said. “But just the academic focus is not there if you’re anxious all the time or if you’re depressed. I think some of the strategies can help them learn to be more successful.”
Angela Gadsden’s middle school daughter is one of the students who struggled to reintegrate into the classroom after the pandemic. She says the calming room made all the difference.
“She got into a little bit of girl drama and she connected with one of the people who worked with a mindfulness and it helped her figure things out where she needed to,” Gadsden said. “She uses the calming techniques to help her to figure things out as she goes along.”
Gadsden says it’s the kind of thing she wishes was around when she was a student.
“Students have great issues, not just anxiety outside of the pandemic and other things. Family issues. There’s death in some families. The crime sprees that are going on nationwide,” Gadsden said. “It would be beneficial to anyone students, staff, parents, it’s beneficial for the world.”
Not all schools have the space to dedicate an entire room to Zen purposes. For those schools and individual classrooms, there are calming kits. The kits are packed with manipulatives, like slime, foam and Jacob’s Ladders. Mims says it gives students something to focus on and helps them open up.
“For example, I had a student in my office earlier, and we were talking about some pretty serious stuff. So he’s, I mean, just really getting all that frustration kind of out. So he’s able to talk,” Mims said. “I have things on my desk and it’s almost every single day an adult comes in there. So adults use them too.”
So far, the district has 1,200 calming kits in 32 schools. As far calming rooms for students, there are 12 in the elementary schools, three in middle schools and two in high schools. There are a similar number of calming rooms for staff as well.
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