Students notice a need for a calm space to destress and unwind
The middle school experience is a challenging time for students. Add in a pandemic, and the stress increases. When COVID-19 arrived in 2020, so did remote learning and new methods of communicating and interacting. Returning to school, a group of White Hall Middle School seventh-graders saw the need for a safe, calm space, a mindfulness room where students who are upset can retreat to calm down or talk with a counselor.
Logan Guynn, now 14 and an eighth grader, saw the idea for a mindfulness room on a list of the unfinished projects the pandemic had prevented the school’s EAST (environmental and spatial technology) lab from creating.
Each student has unique challenges in their lives, some of which intensified during the pandemic isolation, Logan said. “We were struggling with a lot of disruptive people and a lot of mental health issues, especially after not seeing each other for a very long time during the pandemic.”
Implementing the vision of a “calming room”
Logan, along with other students Kaitlyn Cooper, Emily Scarborugh, Hannah Harrison, and Presley Bennett, all also now 14 and in the eighth grade, helped create the room.
The students, assisted by a guidance counselor, applied for and received a $1,000 mini grant from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas. Established in 2001, the Foundation is evidence of the company’s intention to provide caring solutions to the healthcare needs of all Arkansans and advances the company’s commitment to corporate citizenship and the public good. The original plan to transform a smaller storage space expanded after White Hall Methodist Church’s congregation also donated $1,000. An Amazon wish list, posted on the school’s PTO Facebook page, brought another $600 of items to fill the room.
The inviting space, completed in spring 2022, features a calming atmosphere, soft music, journals, coloring pages, and sensory objects and games for the students and teachers to use.
“The room is used by students who need to ‘cool down’ or de-escalate, are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or simply need a quick, quiet moment,” said Guidance Counselor Michelle Bond, who oversees the space. “It allows students to return to the learning environment feeling calmer, relaxed, and with an overall better sense of belonging and feeling more grounded”, she added.
“Seeing the room become a reality was great,” Logan said. “It’s way beyond what we could ever imagine. It’s become a safe place.”
Nearly 200 students have already used the room, which is also used for small group counseling sessions, parent meetings and a relaxing retreat for teachers during their prep periods.
“It gives students a place, outside of their family and apart from the rest of the school, where they can come to talk to someone or just sit down and relax,” said Presley.
“Our perspective on mental health has changed drastically, seeing the room come to life and all of the people who’ve benefitted from it,” said Hannah.
Students’ feedback, left on a dedicated laptop, confirms they appreciate it.
“All the students really respect the space and take good care of it,” Michelle said. If funds allow, the originally targeted, smaller space will be used to create a place for students to meet with counselors or therapists.
Create a space for your school
As part of our 75th anniversary milestone- and our commitment to mental and behavioral health- Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield will award funding for 75 quiet rooms in junior and senior high schools around the state.
Watch for more information in August about how your school can apply for help in creating a calming space for students who need to take a break when feeling overwhelmed or to pull away to refocus at school. Schools will have until September 22 to apply.