VERONA, Wis. - Summer break is quickly coming to an end for Madison-area students. Verona schools start tomorrow, and at one of the district's elementary schools, you'll find a new way to tackle mental health among some of the youngest students.
A group of Stoner Prairie teachers spent close to 40 hours this summer, working not on their own classrooms, but a new area of the school devoted to helping students deal with anxiety and stress:
Known as the 'Mindfulness Room," the Verona Area School District hopes it helps give kids the tools they need feel kind and courageous every day.
The school's principal Tammy Thompson Kapp said every student has an invisible backpack they carry around, full of emotions they don't always let out, or don't let out appropriately.
When they're in the new room, students will learn how to express what they're feeling with words instead of actions, to help regulate their emotions.
Teachers will sign their classrooms up for 30-minute sessions in the room about one time a week. The room will also be reserved for teacher-only use during several periods each day.
"I would say the biggest benefit is that there's a place that teachers can access to take care of themselves first," Kapp said. "That's my biggest rule as a principal: to take care of my teachers. Then, they can do their best work on behalf of our students and families."
Stress among students is nothing new: According to the National Education Association, 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a "major problem" among their peers. In fact, right now, mental health conditions are viewed as a bigger concern among students than bullying, drug use, and alcohol abuse.
And they're becoming increasingly problematic among younger students, including those in elementary school.
Seven Stoner Prairie teachers became certified over the summer as yoga instructors to help guide their students in the Mindfulness room.
Verona schools are ahead of the curve when it comes to tackling mental health thanks in part to the new room. But they're not the only school in the Madison area with one. Sun Prairie opened their space last year.