When you step into the Rest and Relaxation Room at Chatham High School, you immediately feel transported into a rejuvenated space. The room is a health classroom for most of the day, but during lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays soft music, dim lighting and the scent of lavender fill the space. With bean bags chairs in a corner and hot tea near the entrance, the room is, well, relaxing.
And it’s drawing students. Overwhelmed with the constant thrum of homework, social media and the demands of sports or other outside activities, more and more young people are searching for ways to slow down.
The “R and R Room” opened in the beginning of last November. Student Assistance Counselor Lisa Lattarulo and CHS School Counselor Andrea Murphy created the space as an alternative to the noise and busyness of the cafeteria.
“We knew we had to start helping our kids manage their stress levels,” Lattarulo said. “After getting training in mindfulness and other stress reduction methods, we decided to do what we can, one step at a time, to help students take care of themselves.”
Senior Emma Bergstrom finds the “R and R Room” a welcome addition to her lunchtime options. As a senior, she can leave campus and eat lunch out. But some days she needs to stay at school. “On those days, I can come here and eat, read my book and get some work done,” she said, “It’s a nice quiet space.”
Like Bergstrom, Teresa Garavente is a senior. On days she doesn’t leave campus, she often heads to the R and R room. “The music is nice and soothing,” she explained. “I find it calming.”
“I see so many students who are overwhelmed, coping with depression or managing all the pressure that comes with being a teenager,” Lattarulo said. “This space helps them recharge and unplug for a short period of time before afternoon classes begin. We have a small committee of faculty members who manage the space during lunch.”
During the month of February, Lattarulo and Murphy added mini-wellness lessons to this lunchtime getaway. CHS Senior Mila Cloidt, a certified yoga instructor and president of the CHS Yoga club led a short yoga class. English teacher Christina McCabe led students in relaxation and breathing techniques. Additionally, Science supervisor, Kristen Crawford presented on the benefits of essential oils in which students and faculty made their own bottle of oils to help promote well being.
“Right now, we have an average of 10 to 15 students coming to the R and R room on any given day. And many of them come regularly,” added Lattarulo. “Like other schools across the country, we know that this kind of offering can make a big difference in the way some teens feel about themselves and their day-to-day lives.”
“This place feels great,” said Junior Lea Mougel. With her sandwich before her and her friends beside her, she started coloring, using the art materials provided.
Lattarulo watched from the other side of the room. “This is something that needs to be here,” she said. ‘It’s options like these that can make a huge difference. We are continuing to explore ways to improve the aesthetics of the space which in turn will attract more students to take advantage of the room’s benefits.” Both Lattarulo and Murphy are in the process of submitting a grant application to the Chatham Education Foundation to support comfortable furniture and supplies for the initiative.