In an effort to support children and strengthen families, Zen Dens were created by United Neighbors of Fall River, the Balanced Learning Center, and the Family Resource Center. The project was originally designed as a space in classrooms, but the organizations switched gears when the pandemic hit. They pivoted and recreated the dens as home-based kits.

According to Wendy Garf-Lipp, the Executive Director at United Neighbors of Fall River, Zen Dens are rooms or areas designated for maximum calm. “When students need a break from the stresses of the day, they can come to the welcoming confines of the Zen Den. The Zen Den is a calming area outfitted with posters of different breathing techniques, information on conflict resolution, and objects to manipulate like putty, Play-Doh, and stress balls. There is an area with books about feelings and ideas to help students calm down if they are upset. Another area is set up for drawing and coloring. There are fidget toys, electric candles, yoga mats, wind chimes, and calming music. Zen Dens just put normalcy on needing a break. Having a safe, private spot where students can come is teaching them how to take care of themselves. The Zen Den provides the tools to students so they can self-regulate their emotions.”

Although these safe spaces are meant for students who act out in class or have trouble controlling their emotions, the benefits for all children and even adults are measurable. “Schools that have introduced Zen Dens measure upticks not only in academic performance but also behavioral outcomes. Data suggests that the direct intervention with social-emotional learning is impacting students not only with their academic achievement but also with their ability to function successfully in school, decrease in behavioral referrals, less out of school suspension for students, which allows for increased instructional time.”

Zen Dens are a simple, yet effective way of promoting mental wellness. “When you enter this quiet space, you can almost feel it on your shoulders; you walk into calm. That’s what we want for students. They can go into a space that makes them feel in control, calm, meditative, and unplugged!”

Although there is currently a waiting list to order Zen Den On the Go, United Neighbors of Fall River encourages families to create their very own Zen Den at home using items they already have at the house. Watch the video below to learn how:

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