Lavender, weighted blankets, cut Knoxville school's detentions in half

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) There’s a small space in Belle Morris Elementary that is transforming the entire school.

Soft cushions and blankets line the floor, while the smell of lavender and the soft sound of a fountain and gentle music take students to a different world right in the middle of their school.

Spearheaded by fifth grade teacher Caitlin Hatfield, students now have what the school is calling its “mindfulness room”. Designed to create a safe, calming environment, the room acts as a space where students can find peace when they feel they might begin to act out.

In the past, Hatfield and other teachers’ only option was to send students out for disciplinary referrals.

"The previous year we had almost 900 referrals," for the entire school of about 450 students.

"When it boils down to it they don’t want to get in trouble," Hatfield said.

So she started writing a grant proposal for the mindfulness room, where students can get away from a situation before it gets worse. Great Schools Partnership awarded her more than $2,700 to make it happen.

"We're able to see that kids are learning how to check their own emotions," Hatfield said.

Once a student gets to the calm corner, it's a 15 minute chance to reset. Teacher Melinda Forgety oversees the special space.

"We teach them tools that they can use to calm themselves down,” Forgety said. “One of them is different breathing exercises. When they come to the calm corner I say go ahead and start working on your breathing and settle down."

Students are breathing in lavender scents, listening to soothing music, and sitting under a weighted blanket. She says once they've calmed down, then it's back to class.

After using the room for just one year, Belle Morris has cut student detention and suspensions by half.

Hatfield said those few minutes away can make all the difference in a student's day.

"94.3% of students who visit to the mindfulness room ended up making it the rest of the day without getting in trouble again," Hatfield said.