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Calm spaces support well-being in schools

During a stressful situation, sometimes students need a moment of calm to get back on track. Hennepin County Public Health’s Health@School team has worked with schools to help students find calm through the creation of calm spaces. These spaces help students and staff manage their mental and emotional well-being so they can succeed in school and beyond. 

What is a calm space?

With mental health concerns and stress on the rise for young people, calm spaces are seen as beneficial for all students, not just students with special needs or sensory issues. They help students learn how to self-regulate and prepare to re-engage in learning when emotions are high, or energy levels are depleted. A calm space can take the form of an entire room, a dedicated corner, or a portable cart or kit. 

calm kit

An example calm kit includes exercise posters, fitness dice, Move Mindfully activity cards, breathing spheres, and fidgets. (Photo credit: Hennepin County Public Health)

In 2022, Health@School used funding from the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) to provide 130 calm kits to 12 school sites in diverse and under-resourced communities. They also created calm space guides to help schools develop calming resources that fit their resources and needs. The guides include suggestions of how to set expectations for use of the space and other best practices for success. The calm spaces and guides complement the stress management training provided through Allina Health’s Change to Chill program.

Positive impacts on students and staff

Schools that have implemented the calm spaces have found them valuable for their students. One Osseo teacher shared, “Students have been able to utilize the calm corner with techniques and the kit when feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or sad. This has helped them to self-regulate so they can get on with their day and feel and be successful.”

The county’s Health@Work team has done similar work with school staff, whose health and well-being can be diminished by uncontrolled stress. Staff working with students with high needs, such as those in the Pathways Program, which supports students with unique needs in grades 9-12 and transition ages, may experience additional stress. Staff in the Pathways Program at Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie and the West Education Center in Minnetonka connected with Health@Work in 2020 and suggested they would benefit from calm rooms. Wellness champions at each site used SHIP funds to create well-being rooms with massage chairs, reading and coloring stations, and other calming resources for staff to re-center and re-energize when needed.

Having access to calm spaces can help students and staff better care for themselves so they can stay healthy and be their best throughout the day. Whether you work in schools or not, check out the resources below and try out some of the ideas to add calming resources to your workplace or home.