Ladd Acres students blast off with wellness room rocket ship
Students have been over the moon in excitement this week about the recently donated "rocket ship" which has landed at Hillsboro's Ladd Acres Elementary School.
The rocket ship, a 6-foot-tall enclosed space splattered with images of a starry night sky and soft red lights, stands in Jennifer Ranger's classroom.
Ranger, a wellness instructor at Ladd Acres, runs the school's wellness room, a specially built space for students who need some alone time, or time to self-regulate, she said.
"I love it so much I can't even stand it," Ranger said.
The astronaut is the official mascot of Ladd Acres Elementary School, and Ranger developed the rocket ship idea as a way for kids to feel both safe and comfortable.
"The new rocket ship serves as a break space," Ranger said. "There are lights in it. It looks like you're in space. It's really beautiful."
The rocket ship provides a safe place for the students to climb into and enjoy privacy and silence, or music if they choose, Ranger said. Being able to physically be inside the secluded, dark space allows students to relax their minds and calm down in preparation to go back to their classroom for learning.
The structure is large enough for students to climb inside during their time in the wellness room, she said. It is also handicap accessible.
"You want this room to be as amazing as possible," she said.
Many Hillsboro schools have set aside wellness rooms for students, said Ranger, who came to the school nearly two years ago. The wellness room was built last school year.
Many children experience some sort of significant trauma, such as abuse or neglect, she said.
Working with children who have experienced significant trauma can be difficult, she said. First, the students must feel safe.
"If you have significant trauma, you have to feel safe before your brain is calm and ready to learn," she said.
The wellness room is set up to assist both the students who need it and the teachers who are looking for behavioral management techniques for their students, she said.
"In mine, we take kids that need extra practice support," Ranger said. "Students can ask (to visit the room) or teachers can send them."
Ranger said students who come to the wellness room practice yoga, and have the opportunity for quiet time.
The goal of the wellness room is three-fold, Ranger said: Students need a significant adult connection, must learn to regulate themselves, and have a safe place to go when they feel anxious or upset.
"The teachers in the classroom also need to make connections with kids, they need to make their rooms safe, and also teach regulation strategies," Ranger said.
Many students just need a quiet break in the day or an opportunity to interact one on one with an adult, she said.
Ranger also helps teachers develop some kind of quiet space for students in their classrooms.
The rocket ship was built and donated by students at Century High School, who designed the ship based on what they would've liked when they were younger, Ranger said.
"They came up with the design, the lighting, the music, the vinyl print on the inside and outside," she said. "… It's so awesome that they did this."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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