A polar bear enjoys his Tuesday morning at the San Diego Zoo. Watching animal cams is just one of the many things you can do to relax while visiting the BCPS Virtual Calming Room

COVID-19 got you a little crazy? Need a break from virtual classrooms, meetings, and living? Feeling a little stressed lately?

BCPS is here to help. The new BCPS Virtual Calming Room offers an online lifeline for those times when students, teachers, and parents and caregivers need a little break from the stresses and strains of our new coronavirus-infected world.

Inspired by the calming rooms used to ease anxieties for some children, the online room offers easy-to-access resources providing virtual books and games, creative pursuits such as coloring books and puzzles, mindfulness and movement tools such as stretching exercises and yoga, sensory stimulation including a library of sounds, visuals, fidgets, and music, and a selection of virtual tours to places like Africa, Hawaii, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Walters Art Gallery, and even the moon, as well as a mix of enjoyable animal videos and live cams.

Sponsored by the BCPS Division of School Climate and Safety, the site also provides a variety of BCPS and community resources, including the BCPS Parent University, homework assistance and content tutorials, and other mental health and well-being websites.

“Over the past eight months,” said Dr. Amalio Nieves, executive director of the BCPS Department of Social-Emotional Support, “BCPS students, staff, and families have faced a host of stressful and challenging experiences, including the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged isolation while sheltering at home, economic implications of the pandemic, a sudden and unprecedented shift to virtual learning, and ongoing exposure to social unrest. . . . It is essential that we recognize the collective toll these stressors are placing on our students, staff and families and give both young people and adults the time, space, and support they need to process their emotions and engage in healing.

Added Dr. Nieves, “We hope theBCPS Virtual Calming Roomwill be a place for students, families, and staff to find tools and strategies for managing emotions and feelings and building our resilience during this pandemic.”

Courtney Blair, supervisor of mental health services in the BCPS Office of School Climate, said the idea originated in the system’s Office of School Psychology and, with the help of educators working with BCPS multi-tiered system of supports, became part of the school system’s Mind Over Matters campaign.

“I didn’t have much awareness about virtual calming rooms. (But) once I learned what they are and how awesome they are, the VCR (Virtual Calming Room) adventure began,” Blair said. “This was truly a collaborative effort, and I am so excited that it can be a resource for our students, families, and staff during this unprecedented and challenging time.”

The new site, which also may be accessed directly from the BCPS home page this week, is part of a wide selection of COVID-related resources and websites aimed at assisting students, parents and caregivers, and the community through the pandemic. Also new is the BCPS Parent University InfoCenterthat provides information for families about choosing hybrid or virtual learning when school buildings re-open to students.

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