SALEM, OR (KPTV) - Not every student comes to school every day ready to learn. That’s why a Salem elementary school is offering a place where kids can regroup before heading back to class.

It’s called the Cub’s Den and it’s a sensory classroom at Four Corners Elementary meant to help with the emotional needs of students.

“We use this as a sensory wellness calming room,” Stephanie Taylor, Behavior Specialist, at Four Corners said. “So, students of all ages, kindergarten through 5th grade can come here to regulate their bodies, to work on emotions or problem-solving.”

The room is a dream of Taylor’s. This will be the second year the school has it.

She said while the space is great for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities, it’s also a place for any kid struggling or having a bad day.

“There’s always been a need for a place for kids to go to learn about how to be calm and ready to learn,” Taylor said.

So how does a sensory classroom work? First, it’s all about sensory support. That means controlling sounds, smells and sights.

“You’ll see there are covers all over our lights,” Taylor said. “Generally, we have a very dim environment, so that allows kids to feel more comfortable.”

“We’ll also have calming music, as well as a light peppermint scent,” Taylor continued. “Things that have shown to be able to calm kids down.”

When a kid first enters the room, they first have to decide how they feel.

“So we use a program called zones of regulations to help kids identify what zone they’re in and then that helps them match different activities, sensory and calming activities that will help them be able to go back in the green zone, which is our learning zone and means they’re ready to be back in the classroom,” Taylor said.

Taylor said kids can be sent to the room as needed or have set schedules.

“So for example, if we notice every day at 10 a.m., a student might be having some challenges, maybe they’re shut down, overwhelmed, we will look at the day and the schedule and say, ‘oh at ten that’s math and math might be a challenging subject for them’,” said Taylor. “So, what we’ll do is we’ll get ahead of that and say, ‘oh how about at 9:30, we have them come down, we take a break, we give them a little pep talk and help build up their confidence for math.’”

Courtney Mager is a parent at Four Corners.

“Honestly, I think more schools should have it,” Mager said.

Two of her kids used the room last year, including one she’s been fostering.

“I know that there are some kids, like one of mine, had a lot of emotional things going on and it helped him kind of distract him to get him back in the classroom,” she said.

Without the classroom, Mager said she bets there would’ve been more office visits and phone calls throughout the year.

“Some kids just need that time,” Mager said. “They need that emotional break for a minute to kind of tone it down.”

Taylor is clear the room is not about taking students out of the classroom, but ultimately helping them get back in.

“We have amazing kids here and a lot of them do have a lot of challenges that they’re bringing in with them and so we have to acknowledge that and start with their most basic needs first and then hopefully they’re able to go back to learning and if not, we’ll just keep teaching until they are,” Taylor said.

Taylor said she’s only received positive feedback from teachers at the school, who said they notice their kids are ready to learn when they come back from the Cub’s Den.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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