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Give me a break: Lincoln offers calming room, tools for self-regulating emotions

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Lincoln Elementary School students can go to the school's Ready Room to regulate their emotions. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Behind the door of Lincoln Elementary School's Ready Room, students work quietly on calming activities in a dim room to the sound of relaxing music and the smell of essential oils.

Para-educator Jenny Thompson supervises the students as they swing in a cocoon swing, color on the wall, dip their hands in oil-covered gel beads, piece together a puzzle, or complete any number of calming sensory activities.

The goal of the Ready Room is to get students ready to learn based on the zones of regulation . According to the school's websites, the zones of regulation "is used to teach self-regulation by labeling all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four zones."

Students emotions are divided into zones — blue, green, yellow and red. The Ready Room is mostly used for students in the blue and yellow zones with the goal of getting them to the green zone — the optimal zone for learning that includes emotions such as calm and content. Blue zone emotions include tired and sad. Yellow zone emotions include overwhelmed and excited. Red zone emotions include angry and terrified.

"A lot of them just need that little tiny break just to break up their day and refocus, get out of the classroom (and) into a different atmosphere," Thompson said.

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Counselor Amber Fridley is the other supervisor for the Ready Room.

"Mrs. Thompson is there to help kiddos self-regulate," Fridley said. "She’s very good at keeping herself regulated because those emotions tend to feed off of each other. When the kids go down, they know that she’s going to be that calm person, ready to help them. She uses some breathing techniques down there."

The Ready Room is available all day, to all students.

"All students are welcome to use the Ready Room as they see needed and as directed by the teacher," said Principal Tammy Peterson. "Our focus with this is wellness of our students and creating that culture of wellness and being sure that our students’ minds and bodies are physically and mentally prepared to be in the classroom to learn."

Prior to going to the Ready Room, students who are in need of a break first use the Peace Place in their classroom.

"They try to have it in a more private location — and that might be difficult in the classroom — so that they can still be monitored," Fridley said.

Each Peace Place has a Calming Caddy that includes sensory tools as well as a timer. Students are directed to flip their timer twice, which gives them about 4 minutes in the Peace Place to settle themselves.

The school also has a Sensory Hallway that teachers can use to help students burn energy and refocus. It includes activities like wall push-ups, squats and jumping jacks.

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Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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