Sometimes we all need to step away and take a moment for a breather to calm our emotions and refocus. This is the idea behind a Cool Down Corner. “The idea resonates with people,” said Golden …
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Sometimes we all need to step away and take a moment for a breather to calm our emotions and refocus.
This is the idea behind a Cool Down Corner.
“The idea resonates with people,” said Golden Rotarian Colleen Jorgensen. “These are skills that everyone needs — how to deal with the things that life throws at us.”
The Rotary Club of Golden is in the midst of providing materials and training for teachers at Shelton Elementary to install Cool Down Corners in their classrooms. The first installment and training included eight teachers, and Rotary plans to get Cool Down Corners in every classroom at Shelton throughout the school year.
Golden Rotary learned about Cool Down Corners from Thomson Elementary School in Arvada, where Cool Down Corners are in some classrooms. Golden Rotary first brought the project to Welchester Elementary in Golden during the 2017-18 school year. Welchester now has Cool Down Corners in five classrooms, Jorgensen said.
Bringing the Cool Down Corners to Golden schools is part of Golden Rotary’s mental health initiative — the club placed raising awareness of mental health issues among youth as one of its priorities a few years ago. Since then, the club formed its wellness work group to focus on mental health; hosted community events dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues, reducing stigma and providing resources; and formed a partnership with the Jefferson Center.
“We were becoming more and more aware of the needs in schools,” said Martha Tate, who is co-leading the Golden Rotary’s Cool Down Corners project with Jorgensen. “Even children in kindergarten can learn to self-soothe. Working with children will help them with their mental health and self-regulation at an early age.”
A Cool Down Corner is a small space in a classroom where students who are upset for whatever reason may go to calm down and self-soothe so they can better focus during instruction time.
“It’s for all kids,” Tate said. “Even your very best students can come to school upset about something.”
Every Cool Down Corner can be customized to the classroom, the teacher and grade level. However, generally, Cool Down Corners have various items that serve as tools for self-soothing. For example, a pinwheel or scented playdough can help a child take deep breaths in a fun way or a set of headphones can be used for sound reduction or for listening to soothing music. Cool Down Corners can have writing materials so students can jot down their thoughts or emotions, and comfort items such as pillows and stuffed animals.
There is a subtle but profound difference between a Cool Down Corner and a time-out, Jorgensen said.
“A child that’s sad is not a discipline issue,” she said, “but it still affects their performance in the classroom.”
A Cool Down Corner is not a place to go for punishment because of misbehavior, Tate added.
“It’s a place (for students) to become aware of emotions and calm themselves down in order to get back to class as quickly as possible,” Tate said.
Georgia Wallace, a fourth-grade teacher at Shelton, introduced the Cool Down Corner to her students on the first day of school this year.
“I encouraged all students to try it for the first few days, even if they were not feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, in order to make it feel like it is a tool for us all to use (and) not just certain students,” Wallace said. “The calming corner gets taken away for the day if we are not using the tools in the bin like we should.”
Likewise, Cheryl O’Haire, who has been teaching for 27 years and currently teaches second grade at Shelton, added that Cool Down Corners are a healthy “way of dealing with upset feelings instead of taking teacher time to calm down.”
“My hope is that students will begin to increase their ability to calm down on their own, which will increase instructional time,” O’Haire said. “Students are not told to go there, as opposed to a behavior break when misbehaving. (And) all students are still held accountable for the work they miss while there so that it doesn’t become a (school work) avoidance place.”
Wallace believes that Cool Down Corners will overall enhance student learning.
“It is helping teach students about how to recognize our emotions and it provides a responsible outlet for releasing any frustrations or feelings of anxiety,” Wallace said. “These are skills they can take with them beyond the classroom.”
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