Thanks to a grant from the United Way of Howard and Tipton Counties, Tipton Middle School converted an office into a calming room. The room has been popular among students who need a few minutes to calm down or destress while at school. Staff photo by Tim Bath
Thanks to a grant from the United Way of Howard and Tipton Counties, Tipton Middle School converted an office into a calming room. The room has been popular among students who need a few minutes to calm down or destress while at school. Staff photo by Tim Bath
TIPTON — Sometimes there is a line of students in the office at Tipton Middle School. They didn’t misbehave, they weren’t sent by a teacher and they will soon return to class.

They just need a few minutes to destress. Some time to breathe, some time to be in a quiet, cozy place.

Thanks to some forward thinking by staff and a grant from the United Way of Howard & Tipton Counties, students have just what they need – a calming room.

A calming room is exactly what it sounds like. Often found in schools, hospitals and even prisons, a calming room is a low-stimulation room where students, and maybe even staff, can go when they need to relieve stress or regulate their emotions.

“It helps those kids that are so overwhelmed to refocus,” said Gena Schultz, student services advisor.

Tipton’s room features mood lighting – overhead fluorescent lights can be turned off – a fuzzy rug, comfy seats and a sound machine that plays everything from rainfall to trains.

Installed over the summer, the calming room came at a time when kids have never been more stressed, according to staff at the middle school. The United Way grant was for about $6,500.

Schultz said students are dealing with a lot this year. She’s seeing more students anxious, depressed and overwhelmed.

“Some of these kids are so stressed from being out of school for a year they have trouble functioning,” Schultz said. While adult  bicker over masks, vaccines and contact tracing, students are bearing much of the stress of a pandemic that rages on. In addition to students concerned about catching COVID themselves, there’s a greater worry about the health and safety of their relatives. Many students are raised by their grandparents, or just a grandparent, Schultz said.

“I was shocked at how deep that fear and anxiety went,” she said.

The room has proven effective. Tipton is sending less kids home who can’t self-regulate at school. Often times they only need five to 15 minutes in the room.

“I love we’re serving our students this way,” said Tipton Middle School Principal Melissa Kikta.

School counselor Lynn Calloway said the room helps students learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Some students need alone time, some do best by sitting in the room and doing an activity, like coloring, and other need to talk it out. The middle school office has a cabinet stocked with fidgets, coloring books and stress balls.

“I like that we’ve been able to teach kids different strategies,” Calloway said.

“That’s a higher-level skill they need to know,” Schultz added. “That’s a skill we want them to have.”

Schultz said hanging out in the room with a student is less intimidating than talking with them from across her desk.

“This room has been a godsend, it really, really has,” Schultz said.

The calming room isn’t for everyone, though. Some students need to release aggression or just burn off some energy. Enter, an active room.

Bigger than the calming room, the room has an exercise bike, a mini-trampoline and a blow-up dummy that can be used as a punching bag.

“We’re seeing a ton of students in the calming space, but we also recognize kids need an active space,” Kikta said.

Tipton Middle School is working to secure funding for its active room, which is an unused classroom. Schultz said they intend to repaint the walls and add a walking track.

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