The Peace Room, a repurposed classroom at Phillipsburg Elementary School, offers students a respite from stress, anxiety and other typical difficulties impacting students during the school day.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held November 21 to formally open the room, though students have been coming to it daily since the first day of school.
The Peace Room results from the long-time partnership between the Phillipsburg School District and St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Community Health, and other departments, as they collaborate to improve students’ access to medical care, education and emotional support resources.
“We are so thankful for St. Luke’s partnership and support that benefits our students, teachers, parents, and everyone associated with the school,” says Darlene Noel, Ed.D., the school’s principal.
“We were able to make this happen because of St. Luke’s. Students absolutely love the space.” The school, of 600 students, teaches grades three to five.
This calming space promotes relaxation and self-regulation through soft lighting and soothing music. Various pro-social and sensory activities help children unplug, reboot, cope and otherwise de-escalate before returning to their classrooms.
The Peace Room was a dream of Principal Noel, who sees children there that often struggle with family and personal barriers that impede their academic and daily lives.
Trevor Micklos, St. Luke’s Warren Campus president, is proud of that partnership.
“As part of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s 150th Anniversary celebrations, St. Luke’s Warren Campus is excited to support the creation of the Peace Room at Phillipsburg Elementary School as a space to promote emotional, mental and physical wellness.”
School counselor Jenna Regan, hired last summer to staff the room, supports the children with accessing the tools and resources they need to self-regulate and improve their social-emotional skill sets.
She also provides counseling that helps them improve coping strategies during moments of distress, major or minor.
“I want them to see that daily stressors are normal in life and can be faced constructively,” she says. “Our hope is they then return to the classroom feeling better and are able to continue learning.”
Entire classes are invited to visit the Peace Room regularly, so students grow to see the room as accessible, helpful and different from a classroom. This aspect is very important to Noel. “We want our students, and their families, to know they don’t have to be in a crisis to come here.” she adds.
Students typically spend about 20 minutes in the room and leave with a smile. According to Noel, about 316 students have visited the Peace Room since it was opened.
The school recently hosted a “Peace for Parents Night,” which acknowledged that “adulting” can be stressful as caregivers work, manage households, and raise children.
“These demands are typical, and there are things we can do to help ourselves manage it better,” says Noel.
Attendees were led through gentle breathing, focus, and stretching exercises – things that can be done daily at home with no equipment. They learned how the space supports their children during the school day.
Noel happily reported, “It was a way for us to care for our caregivers, which helps families recognize us as partners in their children’s lives. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and families asked when they could return for more peace.”
“We want our students, and their families, to know they don’t have to be in a crisis to come here,” she adds.
Continues Regan, “Sometimes they can come to connect, to chill and reset. The Peace Room is for anyone who needs to pause, then continue their day feeling better because they’re supported.”