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WestSide Stories: Wellness Rooms changing student behavior in Jordan School District

Local News

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Two elementary schools in the Jordan School District have Wellness Rooms. School officials noting it’s changing student behavior for the better.

Sixth grade student Stockton Haider said he often visits Monte Vista Elementary school’s Wellness Room.

“One day I came in and used it and I loved it,” he said. “So, whenever I’m stressed or have a headache or need a break, I just come in here, because I always know it will help me.”

In a school with 900 students, Wellness Room specialist Jodee Packer said the room has welcomed 1600 visits since it opened in September.

“Over 300 kids have come into the room almost daily until they can get their feet under them,” she said.

Every item in the room serving a purpose.

“We have our sensory tiles that kids can step on and use to push on the walls and move the gels inside of the squares,” Packer said. “It really takes a lot of that stress and anxiety from their large muscles and it kind of dissipates that.”

Packer said students are allowed to rest, talk through their emotions or decompress with items that offer relief.

“They can come in and use things that actually relieve some of that tension and stress from their muscles,” Packer said. “Some kids come in and they just need five minutes to cry and they want to sit in the teepee, they want to be able to close those doors and have a minute to themselves.”

Packer said the room is helping to change student behavior, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the kids we see in here are struggling because of masks, COVID issues, concerns, anxiety, stress, and even things they’re facing at home – where they’re feeling the stress of COVID on their own families,” Packer said.

Monte Vista is the second school in the district to have a Wellness Room. Packer said Oquirrh Elementary was the first.

“We saw it and what good it was doing in the community, did some research and decided it’s something that would benefit the students at our school,” she said.

The room had been in the works previous to the pandemic; however, the room has served as a crucial space for children.

“We’ve seen a huge decrease in reportable behaviors to the principal – between students fighting and those types of things,” Packer said.

Studies have found kids who have had social and emotional learning are showing advantages over their peers, Packer said.

“Even 20 years later, we’re seeing they’re less likely to be in jail, more likely to have graduated, to have solid relationships, and to have good jobs with employers who see they have good soft skills or the ability to interact with people better,” Packer said.

Whether it be pandemic related or not, this room welcomes all students.

“We’ve seen that 96% of the students that come in who are feeling sad, nervous, anxious, angry, frustrated, leave the room ready to go back to class,” Packer said.

After a 10-minute break, Haider said his mind is clear and ready to learn.

“I was really stressed out and now I’m feeling awesome, feel happy, excited, proud,” he said as he identified his emotions to Packer.  

Haider said he has encouraged his friends to also visit the Wellness Room.

“Even if it doesn’t help, it’s also super fun to just come in here, talk to Ms. Jodee, but it probably will help just to come here – it’s awesome.”

Packer is hopeful that as the pandemic’s impact lessens, the number of students struggling will decrease.  

The Wellness Room is also available for teachers who may need a break.

“Teachers enjoy the light table, we have zero gravity chairs just for the teachers to relieve some of the physical pains you get from teaching (with standing on their feet all day) and we always keep a small supply of chocolate for teachers as well,” Packer said.

The Jordan Education Foundation is working to implement more rooms throughout the district. Donations are welcome.

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