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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > Creating Sanctuary Space for Teachers at Bruce Vento School

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On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Creating Sanctuary Space for Teachers at Bruce Vento School

By Cari Michaels, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium 

Teachers and staff at the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul are enjoying a new lounge space designed to give them “sanctuary” from the stresses and strains they encounter every day on the job. The new space, which opened in late August, is the culmination of a year-long effort led by CYFC as part of its Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners project.

In fall 2016, we in CYFC set out to create a sanctuary space for teachers and staff at Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul. As part of our Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership, this project focused on caring for the teachers and staff who work with students every day. Teachers put in long days filled with solving problems and meeting children’s needs within an ever-changing environment. Often their days allow little time to leave their classroom, connect with one another, or even eat lunch. We wanted to create a space that served a similar purpose to The Calming Room at the school, but with all the amenities that teachers might need during the day.

Our first steps were to ask teachers what they wanted. They spoke to us individually, filled out an online survey, and joined us for an informal gathering in the teachers’ lounge space they were using at the time. We learned that many teachers did not use the lounge because they found it unattractive. They were also dissatisfied with facility problems, including a clogged sink and broken cupboards, and frequent changes in physical location.

two 'before' shots of a teachers' lounge space
The teachers' lounge space, before.
As our conversations continued, it became clear that more teachers would use a room if it met their needs for preparing and eating food and if it remained in one location from year to year. Committing to a stable location also supported the idea of investing more resources in the space.

This past winter we engaged Abi Asojo, Ph.D., our partner with the University of Minnesota College of Design, who has worked with us on other Bruce Vento Elementary School spaces. We then collaborated with Bruce Vento and St. Paul Public School District staff to fix and replace the sink, cupboards, and counters, as well as thoroughly clean and paint the space. Through Abi and the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, we were joined by two students who spent the summer designing the remainder of the new sanctuary space. The students considered teachers’ input and ongoing school changes in their design plans.

two shots of a room under construction
Lounge space becoming sanctuary space.

Through the College of Design, news of this project reached a representative of the Room and Board furniture and home décor retailer, which made a generous donation of furniture and artwork. This donation allowed us to meet the teachers’ requests to create a space that served both as a kitchen for preparing and eating food, as well as a living room for relaxing and visiting with colleagues. The new sanctuary space retains a favorite feature from the previous space — a computer station. In addition, the new space includes added appliances and fixtures, such as two new refrigerators, two new microwaves, a coffee pot and updated electronic fixtures to accommodate these.

The new room was unveiled on Monday, August 28, and the new teachers’ sanctuary space is now in full use as the school year begins! See a short video of teachers' reactions here: St. Paul elementary surprises teachers with redesigned space.

two 'after' shots of people enjoying teachers' lounge space
The completed teachers' sanctuary space.

Contact me to learn more about the project at cmichael@umn.edu or read the December 2016 blog post: A Step Toward Teacher Well-Being. Visit our website to learn more about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership.

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Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between Extension Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

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