A typical day at Eastlake High School consists of packed hallways, stressful classes and tests, and the constant buzz of activity. But one place on campus promises a respite, where a quiet hush settles over the room and warm lamplight casts a dim glow on tables and chairs. This space is the result of a recent initiative launched by the Lake Washington Schools Foundation (LWSF), known as Calming Corners, aimed at promoting student mental wellness. Calming Corners provides students with access to a peaceful and safe environment when they need it.
LWSF has invested over $6,000 to bring Calming Corners to six LWSD high schools, including Eastlake High School (EHS), Emerson High School, Juanita High School, International Community School, and Redmond High School. The funds are used to furnish the designated spaces with calming decor and soothing activities, with LWSF providing a list of suggested items.
With the help of the Calming Corners program, EHS transformed an old conference room into a “Calming Room,” complete with beanbag chairs, soothing colored light projectors, calming decor, music, and art supplies.
According to EHS counselor Amber Owen-Clifford, students come to the Calming Room to take a break from sensitive or emotional topics covered in class or to retreat from the stress of school life. The room helps them reset before going back to class.
Counselors will offer to talk with students in the room, but sometimes a little space is all they need.
“We check up on them in 20 minutes,” said Owen-Clifford. “Sometimes they want to talk after that, or sometimes they’re just ready to go back to class.”
EHS students use the new space regularly, Owen-Clifford explained.
“We have some students that use it almost on a daily basis for little chunks of time,” she said. “There’s usually someone in there at all times.”
EHS has not yet formally advertised the availability of the Calming Room. So far, students have learned about it from counselors or by word of mouth. When told about the room, EHS sophomore Zenith Tang recognized the need and the appeal of the space but noted that missing class to use it may instead add to their stress level.
“I’m usually pretty stressed,” Tang said, but continued, “I’d probably be too busy or worried about missing class to go to the Calming Room, to be honest, but I’m sure it would help other students!”
While the Calming Room may not be the right stress management tool for all students, counselors report that it is having a positive impact on those who do use it.
“I had a student come in on Monday that was really upset about the war and all the conflict happening over in Israel,” said Owen-Clifford. “She just kind of almost needed to cry because they talked about it in her English class. She got overwhelmed and then came down here and was able to kind of just … be alone for like a little bit and then just help her reset.”
Even without broad advertising, the Calming Room is used so consistently that EHS recognizes a potential need to expand.
“We want it to be a shared space. But we found that typically students don’t like to share the space if they’re really upset,” said Owen-Clifford.
To help with a potential expansion, LWSF will continue to support the Calming Corners program.
“We will invest another $2,100 [for all participating schools combined] this year to refresh sensory activities in these spaces,” says Bonnie Leung, the Communications and Program Coordinator at LWSF.
Regarding student attendance and confidentiality, Owen-Clifford explained that counselors are tracking Calming Room use, but primarily in case of an emergency and to help measure the program’s benefits.
While the room’s long-term use and benefits are still to be seen, students have already shared their appreciation for the new space with Owen-Clifford.
“Students have definitely expressed gratitude and being just so thankful to have a space that is removed, cozy, quiet.”
Learn more about the Calming Corners project at LWSF.org.