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Episode 56: A Sixth-Grader Shares Stress Relief Routine Inside the Monte Vista Elementary School Wellness Center

It is a quiet place inside Monte Vista Elementary School where students are learning to identify, express and manage their emotions for a happier, healthier experience at school. On this episode of the Supercast, Stockton, a sixth-grade student at Monte Vista Elementary, shares his stress relief routine inside the Wellness Center. It is a room that is impacting the lives of students, teachers and staff in a calm, relaxing and welcoming environment.


Superintendent Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. On this episode of the Supercast, Stockton, a sixth-grade student, shares his stress relief routine inside the new Wellness Center at Monte Vista Elementary School. The Wellness Center is a room where students are learning to identify, express and manage their emotions for a happier, healthier experience at school. It is a 10 minute break from daily routines that is impacting the lives of students, teachers, and staff. Let's start with Stockton and his stress relief routine. We're here in the Wellness Center at Monte Vista Elementary with Stockton. Now, let me guess. Were you named after a basketball player?

Stockton:
Yes, I was.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Is that basketball player called Malone?

Stockton:
No, it was not.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. Well, I was close. Thanks for talking with me today. How many times have you visited the Wellness Center?

Stockton:
I visited once and I've come here other times and shown my friends around and my mom.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And what do you like about the Wellness Center?

Stockton:
I love how the Wellness Center has everything that you might need to relieve your stress and it helps you be better get after you come here. You're ready to learn and it's got everything that you would think that's fun.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah, it does look like a fun place and it does look like a kind of relaxing place, everywhere you look. What are some of your favorite parts of the Wellness Center?

Stockton:
I love over here on the wall.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Let's take a walk over there. What do we have here?

Stockton:
So, we have kind of stress relievers and you apply pressure and pushes up hard and you try to get the other color up.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh, this is about a two foot by two foot square.

Stockton:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And it looks like a picture at first, but as soon as you applied pressure to it, Stockton, I saw it is filled with colorful goo of some kind.

Stockton:
Yes, some kind of oil. And some of it goes to the bottom and some stays to the top and if you apply pressure, try to get the other color to the top.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So she feel like applying a pressure to something that's a really good place to move the pressure from you on the wall.

Stockton:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah, that looks great. Let me give it a shot. Going to try this one. You've got the yellow and green I'm trying to. Oh, see that's, wow! It has a good feel to it too.

Stockton:
Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And when you push on it, you don't expect it, the colors to move around. That's really something.

Stockton:
Use your feet to apply pressure as well.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And wow, I feel like I'm playing Dance, Dance Revolution at a certain point here. Wow. That's cool. I have kind of an apocalyptic sunset here that I'm creating. What else do you have around here that you liked?

Stockton:
I really like these blocks right here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I saw you were messing with those when you first walked in. What does that involve?

 

Stockton:
Yeah. These are just like rocks, but they have all kinds of edges.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And they're smaller. They're smaller than your fist.

Stockton:
Yeah. They're pretty small.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And in various colors, but it looks like they can stack in a lot of different ways ,if you will.

Stockton:
Yeah. They can stack a lot of different ways. And this is a good time to relax and try to try to make whatever you want. One other thing that I liked is this art.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We knocked over, you know what? It's good that you've done that before because our microphone person, Doug, just knocked that over, but you're going to be able to rebuild it.

Stockton:
We can rebuild it, we have upgraded technology for this.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. So show me what this right here?

Stockton:
Apparently it a Zen Artist Board and you have a brush, you put water on it and then you can paint whatever you want.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh. Now are you painting with water? Is that how that's working?

Stockton:
You're kind of painting water. This is not good art, but the Chevrolet logo.

Superintendent Godfrey:
A Chevrolet. You meant to drive a Ford, but it came up Chevy on accident?

Stockton:
Yeah. I can try a Chevy down here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh yeah. There it goes. Yeah. Very nice. Now, it doesn't fade very quickly but it is starting to pick up.

Stockton:
And now, with the water, it's starting to fade away and you can come in and you can write, what's stressing you out, then you can watch it "fade away", like he can put it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So give me an example.

Stockton:
You could do math, multiplication and then

Superintendent Godfrey:
Math makes you frustrated or upset right now. You write it on the board and it fades away.

Stockton:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That is very soothing. In fact, the whole time I was kind of envious that you had it in your hand and I didn't. Can I give it a try?

Stockton:
Go ahead.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Alright, let me give it a shot. Email. Okay. I got pretty heavy on the "E" so it dripped all the way to the bottom. All right. We'll see how quickly that email fades. Now does that mean as soon as it fades, my entire inbox will be swept clean?

Stockton:
Yes it will!

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks.

Stockton:
You know what, when you go back, your inbox was zero.

Superintendent Godfrey:
This is the favorite interview I've ever done right now. It's great talking with you. Anything else? Any parting thoughts about the Wellness Center?

Stockton:
I love the Wellness Center because I get migraines and I usually get migraines from lack of sleep or when something's stressing me out. So, when I'm getting stressed, I know that a migraine might come on. So, I come here to the Wellness Center and I calm down and it helps.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I can't think of a better way to experience the Wellness Center than with you as my tour guide.

Stockton:
Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck in science today.

Stockton:
Thanks. Good luck in your email.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks a lot. I'll need it. Stay with us. When we come back more on the Wellness Center, where I will experience a zero gravity chair and play something called a tone tongue drum for the first time. Find out how I did next.

Stacee:
Hello, I'm Stacee Worthen, Secondary Counseling Specialist for Jordan School District. Do you know all the ways during school district counselors can help you? Your student school counselors play such an important role in our schools. They provide parents with resources to help guide their children in academics. They provide support with the mental and social well-being of students in our schools. And if you are in the process of preparing a student for college, or just beginning the conversation of higher education, now is the perfect time to reach out to your child's counselor. We can assist with college applications and college readiness. I encourage parents and guardians to schedule an appointment and get to know your students counselor. Together, counselors and parents can help develop plans and strategies for students to succeed long after they leave during the school district. Reach out. We're always here to help. You can find us and learn more at counseling.jordandistrict.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're back in the Health and Wellness Center now with Nanette Ririe, the principal and Jodee Packer, the Social Emotional Learning Specialist for the Wellness Center here. Thanks for spending time with us today and talking to us about the Wellness Center. We have a few of these in the District, and I know I talked with you a couple of years ago about your desire to put this in place. And here it is, and it looks fabulous! So, tell us a little bit about how we got here.

Nanette:
Well, thank you for coming.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Last year we realized that we were seeing, with Jodee's help and the help of a few teachers, that we were having a lot of students who were anxious and feeling it was getting in the way of their learning. So, we were trying to figure out how we could help that situation. And we found out that Oquirrh had their Wellness Center. So Jodee and our School Psychologist, Lisa Stillman, went over to visit last year. And then I went over to spend time with the Principal Shauna Worthington, and just felt like this is what we needed to help our students just before they get to the point of escalation with their anxiety or their stress, to catch that before that happens and get them back into class, ready and better prepared to learn. So that was our goal.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Now, I know you have a lot of staff here that helps provide support when students are feeling that way. Jodee is one of those staff members. Jodee, tell us a little bit about how your role has evolved here at Monte Vista.

Jodee:
When I came last year, I was assigned to just one or two specific students. By the end of the year, that was 15 - 20 students and we were seeing the stress and anxiety still rising. So I started out kind of one-on-one and now I see about a hundred kids a week.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, what we realized is that there's a lot more stress and a lot more social and emotional learning needs than ever before, especially in a year like 2020. So it is great timing. And when I first walked in,  it was a very calm place.

Jodee:
Last year we talked to our School Community Council about the idea as well, and to get their thoughts and opinions about it. And so they, they were onboard. They were so excited, as well, for the opportunity to have their students have a chance to unwind, place, to go and to get back to learning better prepared. So, I really appreciated their support. Just knowing that and recognizing, from a parent perspective, that this would be a good thing here. Also, we wanted to make sure that we address the needs of our teachers. So, our Wellness Center isn't just for students, it's for teachers as well. We've had several teachers on their break or before and after school, come in and just sit with the lights dimmed and a chance just to refresh.

Superintendent Godfrey:
As the principal, have you seen a reduction in referrals for behavior or difficulties in the classroom after the Wellness Room was put in place?

Nanette:
Yes, we've seen a significant drop. We've only had a couple, maybe two, since school started and they were very minor issues. We expected a lot more, to be honest, just because of the nature of where we're at. And we haven't seen as many office referrals, which has been great because that gives us more time to do other things.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That's really remarkable to see. Just giving students a pause, because sometimes our focus is not on giving them space and giving them pause and allowing them to renew. It's just reminding them of what they're supposed to be doing. This is an innovative and really responsive way of doing that.

Nanette:
Yeah, we're excited. We're excited to not only just have this available for students, but also to give them some strategies too that they can take on throughout their life on how to deal with stress and what they can do to get back to a good place.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It has a nice dim-lit look. There are pictures around the room and peaceful music, which we have turned down for the benefit of being able to record our conversation. But there's a big screen with very peaceful images, video of nature, and just some soothing footage that really creates a mood from the moment you walk in.

Jodee:
We have kids and teachers that will come in and roll out one of these beanbags and just lay there and listen and watch those videos until they feel prepared and ready to go back.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's like the best screen-saver ever. It looks really, really awesome.

Jodee:
It made me want to travel.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. High definition and just video from around the world. So walk us through a little bit. Tell us about some of the features of the Wellness Center.

Jodee:
Well, when a student comes in, they show us on this wall, how they're feeling, and we call this our emotional temperature and it's zones of regulation. And so if they can't see a word here that maybe tells how they're feeling, then they'll point to a color. So for example, our blue color is feeling sad or confused, shy, embarrassed, tired and they may be coming in feeling this way or nervous, angry, anxious under the yellow color. Our goal is to get them back to green, where they're excited, proud, happy, ready to go back to class.

Superintendent Godfrey:

And curious.  I like that.

Jodee:
So they come in and they show us how they're feeling.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And red is scared, furious or mad.

Jodee:
It is. And we ask them to try and come when they hit this yellow. We accept them, however they come, but we get them here at yellow and we remember that we are trying to stop before we get to these stronger feelings that take longer to calm down from.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So do you find most in the yellow zone or in the blue?

Jodee:
So the first two and a half weeks of school, it was blue because a lot of us missed moms. We missed our families. And now that we're getting deeper into the curriculum, we're getting more yellows, more nervous, more anxious about things.

Superintendent Godfrey:
The blue doesn't surprise me when you described the reason, because families were used to being close and being together and now students were pulled away. We knew that would be an adjustment, but how nice for them to be able to express that.

Jodee
Yes, even the tired because they're going from sleeping and doing what they want all day to being at school and going all day.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So tell me about the toolbox you have here.

Jodee:
So two of our favorites are the fidgets.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh, the fidgets, this, okay. This is the snake from the eighties.

Jodee:
Yes.
Superintendent Godfrey:
I liked that.

Jodee:
This is a favorite fidget and it's just.....

Superintendet Godfrey:
Okay. I picked that up. It's a bright orange ball that doesn't look squishy until you pull it up.

Jodee:
This is one of my favorites. It's our gratitude station. It's a place where students who are feeling anxious, nervous, stressed can come in and write a thank you note to someone who's helped them throughout their day or throughout their week. And we've found that by helping them taking a moment to be grateful and appreciate the good, and then share that with that person, they leave feeling much better. We also have students writing notes to residents at a local nursing home, and then I take those over and drop them off.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How frequently do you end up with notes for the nursing home?

Jodee:
I've gone over twice with about six little sets of notes for them.

(16:05):
I left a wide variety of options that you have to meet various needs.

Jodee:
There are so many different personalities that we try and cover when anyone went off. And this one, I think you'll want to see. Alright, let's take a look. I know you're a musician and this is a tone drum.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's like maybe a little pillow, but it has these tabs number tabs. And I now have the mallets in my hand. Oh, they're soft. All right. Let's see what happens here.  (music)  I feel like I need to release a New Age album now. That's really fun. If I just show up, actually, if you can't find me, I'm probably here playing on the tone tongue. That's really something. Are there other things here or can I just keep playing with this?

Jodee:
You can keep playing, but there are other things.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Now for the big finale (music). This feels good, it feels right. No wonder kids love to come here. There is such a great variety of things to do. Talk us through the remainder of the room.

Jodee:
We have teepees. Some kids come in upset or in tears, but don't want kids in class to know that they're upset or kids walking by or coming in. And so they can go have a quiet moment in the teepee, either with the tools that we have here or just to sit and calm. And they just clip their little teepee closed and they can have a few minutes to regroup without an audience.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It strikes me that everything here is based on long experience with trying to help students with their individual needs.

Jodee:
Everything about this room is about the individual student. Nothing is done in groups in this room. Everything is about meeting the need of that child in that moment. I do have one more thing I'd love for you to try.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Let's see it.

Jodee:
This is special for our teachers only. And it's right here. I'm going to pull it out for you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay.  This looks like it's going to be fun.

Jodee:
Okay. I will warn you. It's a low seat so when you sit down, don't be surprised that it's low.

Superintendent Godfrey:
This is, maybe, like a lounge chair that you would sit on.

Jodee:
It's a Zero Gravity Chair, and if you tip backwards, don't worry, you will not tip over.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Not mistake, that feels good. I haven't felt this good for quite a while. It's the buildup of being in the Wellness Room for as long as I was. And now I'm in a Zero Gravity Chair.

Jodee:
We even have a cupboard here that is for teachers only. There is a neck massager that can go on the chair there, bath and body works lotion, because we get dried out with the air circulating so fast and being here all day. And then, there is chocolate.

Superintendent Godfrey:
This is great. It is true that at a school or at an office, a lot of times there isn't a place to just kind of duck and have some quiet, even the faculty room. There tends to be a lot of coming and going and you can't really escape the bustle.

Jodee:
Yeah. It's been really nice for teachers to stop in before and after school. And even during rotations, when they have a minute to step away. And it's been good for the students to see that adults need a moment. So it benefits both to have teachers come in.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think that's a really important point for kids to know that adults need this too. We've all known that just a few minutes of a break can make a big difference. Sometimes we just need to close the office door, the bedroom door, and just take a breather for a minute before we take on the rest of our day and giving kids the space. And ability to do that just makes a lot of sense. I'm really impressed and excited about what you have here, because this is a tool that's really going to help you meet the needs of students. And, like you said earlier, help remove some barriers to learning.

Jodee:
Yes, the ultimate goal would be to get students back into their classrooms, you know, just ready and more focused on what the teachers are teaching them.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thank you for giving us a tour and spending time with me.

Jodee:
Thank you so much for coming. It's been a pleasure having you here, and we just thank you for your support.

Nanette:
It takes a team and has just been all of us working together to get to where we are today and just really want to thank Jodee. She's kind of like the heart and soul of the Wellness Center.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Both of you, over the last couple of years I've known how focused you've been on trying to find a way to meet those needs and "Bravo", because obviously, you've done a great job.

Nanette:
Thank you. Thank you so much for coming.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. I'm going to play you out on the tone tongue, but remember, education is the most important thing we'll see out there.

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