ST. MARYS — Having South St. Marys Street Elementary School students create a “calm corner” throughout remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was deemed a great success by students and parents.

In early January, SSMSE Guidance Counselor Kate McGonnell asked students to send her a photo of their work space, encouraging strong study habits and productive work time. This is where the “calm corner” came in.

This was something McGonnell discovered in the SeeSaw library, then assigning it to all grade levels the Friday prior to returning to school in January.

The “calm corner” initiative encourages children to set up a space in their home where they feel cozy and calm, helping to alleviate feelings of stress.

They also are encouraged to send McGonnell a photo of them enjoying their corner.

“It’s great to have a special space set aside to retreat to when you need some alone time, or some time to practice relaxation techniques,” she said. “The response to this assignment was absolutely tremendous. For the most part, kids sent photos of their calm corners and labeled all of their components — stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, special toys, video games, computers, puzzle books, reading books, special lighting, headphones for music, musical instruments.”

It’s her goal, says McGonnell, to keep students thinking about taking care of themselves during stressful times.

“But, not so much as to be overwhelming and actually create more stress,” she said. “I’ve tried to achieve a balance there.”

Students enjoyed showing off their creative space, and some even gave a “virtual tour” of their corner, said McGonnell.

She also received some positive messages from parents, thanking her for this activity and making it “personally meaningful.”

“I was able to hear that parents are appreciating that the kids are getting some exposure to learning about stress management and coping skills,” said McGonnell. “Obviously, right now, we all need some support.”

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