Sacred Space: Creating a Quiet Room
Our local primary school was one of the first in the county to sign up to the Health Promoting Schools initiative in 2000.
This joint initiative between health and education looked at the health of the whole child – physical, mental and social well-being.
Our school was keen to include the spiritual dimension as well.
It was decided to start the initiative with a Health Promoting week. The school was divided into mixed age groups of about 20 children. For two afternoons the groups rotated around various activities – for example dance, making fruit salad and designing their ideal playground.
The church volunteered to run a "quiet room". Volunteers from the church came to man it and each group had about an hour in the room.
The room was used for group work but included a lot of junk – defunct computers, netball posts and secondhand uniform. Sheets and blankets were thrown over much of this to cut down on the business of the room and partitions were made using screens and the table tennis table. Displays of spellings and grammar rules were hidden or replaced temporarily.
We focussed on four main areas: Extreme Landscapes; Touch and Feel; Hidden Treasures and Chill Out.
We made a display of awe inspiring photographs of the Arctic, deserts, mountains and rain forest.
A variety of plants were brought in to create a jungle, and small plastic animals were hidden amongst them.
The desert was made with a yellow sheet, stones and cacti with snakes, lizards and other desert animals.
Water animals and fish were frozen into ice – this was extremely popular and the children spent quite a bit of time trying to free the animals (at times this rather defeated the quiet aspect!)
Touch and Feel
This was the time of various curriculum initiatives that meant even young children spent much of the day sitting and listening.
They often lacked tactile experiences so we decided that one area would be called Touch and Feel.
We used a variety of objects – shells, pebbles in a bowl of water, marble eggs, fir cones – and also made up coloured playdough.
This proved very popular, even with the older children.
The children had to crawl through a tunnel (table and blankets) to reach this area which had been created using tables and screens.
We had a display of hidden places - caves, underwater, secret rooms. Arranged on the floor we had a selection of boxes which could be opened to reveal different "treasures": peacock's feather; seahorse; rose quartz; a dead bee in a hexagonal box; Cinderella's coach.
The children loved this and kept finding friends to share their discoveries.
This was the simplest area and the least used, but we felt it was important to keep it. We put down cushions and bean bags and a selection of books.
How well did it work?
There was a surprisingly calm atmosphere in the room; even the most boisterous children seemed to be quietened. The mixed age groups (4 - 11 year olds) helped as the children were not in their usual classes and were more prepared for new experiences.
This was my first experience of working with children and spirituality; I had few ideas myself but was lucky to work with someone who had a lot of experience of working creatively with children.
Photographs courtesy of Sheila Bailey
with thanks to Sheila Bailey, Tracy Grimster and Annie Purday