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Seaside, OR: New "Mission Control" calming rooms, teachers trauma trained, flexible seating

July 11, 2018, Daily Astoria (OR): Guest column: Mission Control launches in Seaside schools Schools are tasked with teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, but it’s hard for kids to get the lessons when they are upset and misbehaving. That’s why Seaside School District launched an innovative approach to behavioral health in the 2017-18 school year. Mission Control is a calming room where kids can focus on self-regulating their emotions and behavior.... Prior to this year, “There was a real lack of social-emotional education that kids need to know in order to function,” said Rachel Whisler, a behavior support specialist at Seaside Heights Elementary School. “Behavior is a way of communicating that affects friendships, learning and success in a lot of ways” she said. Kids may wonder: “Why am I out of control?” “Why do I say things like that to my friends?” “Why am I so impulsive?” Beginning in kindergarten, students are taught about brain function and how to identify and control their emotions and behavior, using The Zones of Regulation. … Seaside principals and other educators visited Butternut Creek Elementary School’s Wellness Room in the Hillsboro School District and were sold on the idea of creating a similar room at Gearhart Elementary and Seaside Heights. Then the work began. Finding space required relocating computer and performance spaces, ordering supplies and setting up Mission Control. Rooms at each school feature strings of mini-lights, calming stations with sand, theraputty, manipulative items, larger motor challenges and enclosed spaces like a tepee. In addition to the Mission Control room, regular classrooms have new flexible seating, including yoga balls, standing tables and cushions, so students can learn where they were most comfortable. … For two years Seaside educators have studied trauma-informed practices that take into account adverse childhood experiences. It involves treating people with compassion and understanding around traumas they may have experienced…. Most classrooms have a Peace Corner that students can access to self-regulate, said Seaside Heights Principal John McAndrews. It is part of the classroom but is a place where the student can use sensory items or cushions to feel more comfortable. “This allows students to not feel so isolated,” McAndrews said. “They are free to rejoin whenever they want to come back to class.” …

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