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SCSD Classrooms Offer ‘Time Away Spaces’ to Support Student Mental Health

This is a photo of a girl sitting on a chair in a corner of her classroom, playing with a fidget toy.This year, if a SCSD student – of any age – acts withdrawn, shows anxiety, is tense or agitated, or just needs a few minutes to themselves, they are invited to visit a Time Away Space… right in their own classroom.
Each SCSD classroom was provided with $500 to facilitate the creation of their own unique classroom Time Away Space, intended to be a place for students to reset and manage their emotions so they are prepared to return to the learning environment.
“If I feel angry or anxious or hyped, I can use the peace corner,” Porter 4th grade student Qoy’Dronicus Glover-Moore explained. “There’s stuff there to help us calm down. It has a wiggly chair for if we need to move, or there are little toys we can use. When I was little, I’d get angry and make fists with my hands. Now, I can go to the peace corner and squeeze one of the squeeze toys instead.”
Spaces look different in every classroom: they can include everything from fidget toys, cozy seating, pillows, and weighted blankets to noise-cancelling headphones, conflict resolution books, journals, sensory sand, yoga cards, and more. They are spaces where students can take the time to independently recognize and manage their emotions and build independence in allowing students to self-regulate, ultimately preventing students from needing to leave the room for additional support.
From room to room, the procedures of the time away spaces remain the same – so students have familiarity with the rules of the space regardless of which classroom they may be in.
When a student enters a Time Away Space, they set a 5-7 minute timer and are encouraged to choose an activity or item that will best help them calm down while the timer runs. When the timer goes off, if the student feels they are unready to return to learning, they are encouraged to ask for additional time – or outside support. If they return to class, the teacher is encouraged to check in for a brief conversation to assure the student is feeling in control.
“It has made life so much easier,” Porter 4th grade teacher Ashlea Vilello shared. “In every room in our building, students now have a space where they can chill out. We’ve noticed a huge change in emotional regulation. We used to have kids who would get stressed and would physically run from the classroom. Now, we notice building-wide that they are leaving less. My goal is to identify what works for my students so they can be their own advocate. The peace corner allows them to identify what they’re feeling, what triggered it, and what helps them – I can use that to help them stay engaged, in control, and in the classroom.”
In addition to the new ‘Time Away Spaces,’ all SCSD schools offer a variety of mental health supports and services for students, staff, and families. To learn more, please contact your school’s main office or contact the Office of Student Support Services at (315) 435-4131.
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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