After a year of disrupted learning, and with all the strains of the current virus / vaccination situation as it relates to students and faculty/staff, the 2021-2022 school year is starting with many stresses for the entire school community.
All over the country schools and libraries are responding by creating Zen Dens – quiet and soothing spaces for visitors to relax, meditate and take time for self-care. Just as important, Zen Dens also invite a safe way for students and teachers to reflect and talk about their mental health. It is also a way for members of the community to look out for each other, getting help for those who are struggling.
Forest Brook Elementary in Hauppaugue, NY created a Zen Den dedicated to Yoga and Mindfulness under the auspices of Principal Kristen Reingold and School Psychologist, Shari Steinert.
“Forest Brook third grade teacher, Theresa Rivera recently visited the “Zen Den” with her class. Ms. Rivera said, “My students look forward to the Zen Den. I loved when Mrs. Steinert explained the left vs. right brain functions and how parts of your brain work together. We left our session with some brain break activities to try in the classroom. It was a perfect way to help transition back to the school routine!”
The hope is that teachers (and support staff) will also utilize the space “to provide students with a safe space to offer more systematic, building-wide support to our students.”
Other Zen Dens are equipped with soothing lighting, coloring books (we think a StickTogether poster might be a great addition!), chair massagers, plants and grasses, white noise or waterfall sound machines, and spaces to meditate and relax. Most important, the spaces are 100% device free!
Interested in bringing some Mindfulness Drawing to your Zen Den? Follow this link for some step-by-step pointers.
“Libraries can easily carve out space for a Zen Den,” says Kristina A. Holzweiss, author of Hacking School Libraries. “It doesn’t take a lot of money or resources to offer a refuge for students and even teachers. Art supplies, Buddha Boards, kinetic sand, Play Doh, and Legos can provide brain breaks during our stressful days. I’m a big fan of meditation music and videos! For example, students who have visited our Innovation Lab have found it relaxing while watching YouTube videos of nature and crackling fireplaces on our SmartBoard and listening to sounds that I have mixed using the website ASoftMurmur.com.”
If you don’t have space for a Zen Den, consider hosting an event. “We have hosted faculty Destress Zones in our Innovation Lab,” because teachers needed a time during the year to rejuvenize. We offered sessions about nutrition, bibliotherapy, and county mental health resources. Teachers enjoyed collaborating on StickTogether Sticker Mosaic Puzzle Posters, while eating treats that a family and consumer science teacher baked. Another big hit with everyone were the visits by local therapy dogs. Who can resist that!”
Zen Dens offer a no-work zone to relax, disconnect and take a break from the stresses of work. so students, teachers and staff members can truly catch a mental break.