top of page

St. James, MN: Elem school now has "Calm Room" and sensory room

Aug 3, 2023, St. James (MN) Plaindealer: Northside’s calm room helps students with sensory aids

Creating a space for students with special needs to self-regulate with the help of sensory aids utilizing auditory and visual stimuli was the focal point of Special Education teacher Paula Braaten when she was creating the plans for the Northside Calm Room. Northside Elementary had a room designed for this already but it wasn’t able to meet the specific needs of all the students who used it, as its focus was more on vestibular input as well as gross motor input such as swings, scooters, and heavy work activities. Broadening what Northside already had, has helped several more students, Braaten said.

“Students with different disabilities, can become easily overstimulated. Their senses can be in overdrive when they are in the general education setting,” said Braaten. “Being able to appropriately give them the sensory input that they need to get them ready to learn, this space (the calm room) can offer that.”

A month after becoming licensed, Braaten began working with Enabling Devices designing the room. Together, they designed a room to meet the needs of Northside’s students while being cost-effective too. During this time, she was also talking with the Safety Coordinator, electricians and custodians, as well as the school Occupational Therapist, Cathy Spear to ensure the design for the room would benefit and be safe for the students.

Once all the designs and inspections were done, Braaten presented her idea to the District 840 Foundation Board to get their help to create the calm room….

At the end of April, the calm room was complete and ready for students to use it. Even though it was fully functional at the end of the year it was still used a bit by students. In a few weeks, school will be starting again, and students will be filling the halls and classrooms. As the calm room is still new, Braaten is looking forward to having more students being able to access it and use it throughout the year. The calm room goes further than a space for students to take a sensory break, they can also use it to have a calm environment to do their schoolwork….

Sensory items in the room offer different outlets for students. The ones students can touch are sensory wall panels on two walls at different height levels to allow all ages of students to benefit from them, the calm room also has fiber optic lights for students to run their fingers through. Sight and sound are two other senses worked into the room design, lights come from different items in the room with fiber optic lights, a projector with simple pictures, and a water cylinder that has bubbles and fish in it as well. To meet the sound needs, there are sound machines that can play music based on the students’ preferences while they are in the calm room. Braaten has a video available on YouTube and the school’s website in which it showcases all the items in the calm room.

Having the calm room available to the students helps students meet their and their teachers’ goal of being with their peers in the classroom as much as they can.

“Ultimately, in special education we want our students to be able to be in their least restrictive environment, which means being with their general education peers as much as they can while still growing and learning in academics and life skills,” Braaten said, “so being able to utilize this space so that they can be ready to learn and to go back and spend more time with their peers is the ultimately our goal.”

bottom of page