The Zen Den - A Haven of Calm

Bean bags, yoga mats, dimmed lights and students in various stages of calming mindfulness  — that’s what you will find inside the Zen Den at Guerrero Elementary.

The Zen Den is a place where students can stretch, refocus, take a deep breath and learn how to self-regulate and manage their emotions. This soothing room is lined with posters that offer de-stressing techniques and motivational phrases. The Zen Den includes relaxation stations and creativity stations with sensory toys/equipment that provide visual, auditory and tactile experiences which help calm and relieve stress.

Guerrero school counselors are uniquely trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy learning strategies, self management and social skills. They designed the Zen Den with the goal of helping students learn how to control their own behavior. According to Ms. Nickie, "The use of a calming room can decrease anxiety and allow a student to calm down or de-escalate without feeling isolated from their class."

Teachers are encouraged to have students use the calm corner in their rooms when students need to have a break. However, there are situations when students need to leave the room and enter a different space to regulate their emotions more effectively. This is when counselors help facilitate a break in the Zen Den.

Students are asked to enter quietly and choose one of the four zones that identifies their current feelings: 1) GREEN- happy, calm, ready to learn, 2)BLUE - sad, sick, tired, 3) YELLOW - upset, worried, silly, or 4) RED- mad, scared, unsafe. Once identified they decide on a mindful breathing technique to use. (Hot Cocoa Breathing is a favorite: visualize a cup of cocoa - breathe in to smell then breathe out to cool it down.) Next, they choose a calming strategy using one of the many sensory tools/toys provided. Students are given a timer for this activity and are allowed five minutes before it is time to clean up, do another mindful breathing technique and return responsibly to the classroom.

These structured steps are designed to help students calm their mind, relax their body, and overcome a specific challenge as quickly as possible so they can get back to learning in the classroom with the rest of the students.

On a monthly basis, counselors also teach a lesson to every classroom about a social/emotional topic related to common issues seen around the school and differentiated by grade level.

The Zen Den is a haven of calm when students need it most.


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