Mt Pleasant students who need a time-out head for the Bear Den
By Suzanne Dean
MT. PLEASANT—The mascot at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School is a bear.
This year, the school has a place where little bears who are anxious, acting out in class or having a bad day for any reason can come to mellow out, and ideally, get in a frame of mind to return to class.
It’s called the Bears Den, a room outfitted with computers, headphones and other educational materials. It is staffed by two paraprofessional educators known as skills coaches; and a math teaching assistant also helps out.
The Bears Den has been funded with some discretionary funds the school received to be spent as the Mt. Pleasant Elementary administration and faculty chose. Some of the money was from the Teacher and Student Success Accounts (TSSA) set up by the Utah Legislature a couple of years ago.
Rena Orton, principal at the school, reported on results of the Bears Den program so far at a North Sanpete School Board meeting Nov. 1.
Orton gave the example of a little boy who got out of his parents’ car crying inconsolably when he arrived at school. She suggested he go straight to the Bears Den.
It turned out the child was upset because he thought his slacks were too baggy. One of the skills coaches pinned the pants to the child’s satisfaction, and he went on to class.
About 25 percent of Mt. Pleasant Elementary students have visited the Bear Den at least once and about 10 percent have come more than once.
Among students who have come to the Bears Den, 86 percent said the visit helped them.
In response to a survey, one teacher said, “I think it is a great tool for giving students the time to think through things instead of escalating and acting out.”
Another teacher said, “It is great having a location to help students calm down and refocus on school life.”
Another teacher said one student in her class cried for two hours on the first day of school. Only after going to the Bears Den did the child stop crying.
Orton said some students known to experience anxiety have had better attendance and fewer checkouts because of the Bears Den option.
Mt. Pleasant is one of a number of schools in the North Sanpete and South Sanpete school districts that have set up “time out” rooms this year.