Calm Space, Calm Bodies, Calm Minds
When a student at Bruce Vento Elementary School acts out, he or she
isn’t sent to the principal’s office. Instead, he or she takes a trip to
the calming room.
Behavior specialist Carolyn Rottman described it as “a positive space to have our staff and students away from extra stimuli and a safe space for a student to regain self control and de escalate in a reactive way.” But their initial designs for the room was too bare to meet student needs – there wasn’t enough equipment for the children to work off stress and extra energy, and they didn’t have any opportunities to learn from the space.
Working with Children, Youth, and Family Consortium in University Extension, Bruce Vento enlisted Abi Asojo’s sophomore interior design studio to transform their calming room into a more effective and productive space. The class toured the space, interviewed stakeholders, and researched calming room elements. Last month, they presented their final designs to representatives from Bruce Vento and Extension.
In addition to a simple and soothing layout, each group’s incorporated sounds, smells, and tactile elements.
Student Rachel Grothe explained that “when kids are in a heightened state, all their senses are heightened.” Her classmate Emily Devore said that sensory items play a large role in calming and focusing the students. Bruce Vento’s staff were impressed with the wide variety of design elements, including interactive, tactile, and multi-purpose wall spaces; cuddle swings, climbing apparatuses, and other outlets for de-escalation; and projection screens and sound machines that could be adapted to individual students.
According to Sara Langworthy (Extension), “the design students were extremely thorough in the additional research they conducted as they constructed their group plans. [Their] perspectives on how to improve this space were invaluable to the project and will undoubtedly result in a better, more calming space.” Langworth said that the project team will begin logistical planning and implementation. “Construction is tentatively planned for this summer, with the hope of ‘ground breaking’ in time for the new school year in Fall 2015.”
Rottman enjoyed collaborating with the interior design studio, and appreciated their design thinking and fresh perspectives. “We will be forever grateful for this opportunity and hope that it is an example for other schools looking at full inclusion models and a sense of safety, joy, and challenge for their students.”