WCS Calm corners

Pictured are Watauga County Schools Director of Student Services Dr. Paul Holden, Hardin Park Social Worker Denise Presnell and WCS Prevention Counselor Candis Walker with Tiffiany Williams, Watauga Community Health Coordinator for the Western Youth Network.

WCS Calm corners

BOONE — Watauga County Schools has received a $12,000 grant from the Watauga Substance Action and Prevention Coalition to establish Calm Corners in classrooms across the district as part of the WCS Compassionate Schools Initiative.

According to Watauga County Schools Prevention Counselor Candis Walker, a Calm Corner is a space in a classroom or office where students take themselves to help regulate emotions and get their brains ready for learning.

Watauga County Schools utilizes the spaces in certain classrooms across the county, but Walker said the grant would go a long way to further the effort to establish Calm Corners in more schools.

Denise Presnell, a social worker at Hardin Park School, said Calm Corners had been shown to reduce negative interactions between teachers and students, improve peer relations between students, keep students in the classroom where they do not miss out on instructional contentment and peer interactions and to reduce office referrals.

Presnell said the Calm Corner kits paid for by the grant contains items that help students release nervous energy and manage their emotions like stress balls, relaxation coloring books, exercise stretch bands, noise-cancelling headphones and weighted stuffed animals.

Presnell said student services staff schedule 30 minute training sessions for teachers and students in their classroom to help them learn to utilize the spaces.

“We teach the children about how to prepare their brains for learning and how to recognize and manage big emotions,” Presnell said. “The students learn a five point scale for identifying emotion levels, as well as skills they can do at their seat. As they learn how to use the tools in the kit, they also learn expected behaviors for the Calm Corner.”

Presnell said that, for every Calm Corner implemented in a classroom, 15-30 children are positively impacted.

Tiffany Williams, Watauga Community Health Coordinator for the Western Youth Network, said she was excited to have been able to award the grant to Watauga County Schools and that it aligned well with WYN’s mission.

“As a substance use prevention coalition we were thrilled to get to contribute to this program,” Williams said. “There are many evidence based prevention strategies to reduce youth substance use, one of those is to increase protective factors so if we can equip students with the tools they need to cope with stress and emotions in healthy ways, it will prepare them to make those healthy choices later. Our hope is that by the time they are facing a choice to cope with substances or the tools they have been given, that they will choose the healthy tools instead.”

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