Transcript: Atikokan Calming Project | Apr 19, 2018

Jeyan Jeganathan stands in the set of “The Agenda.”

Jeyan is in his thirties, with short curly brown hair and a stubble. He wears a gray suit and a white shirt.

On a screen behind him, a caption reads “Ontario Hubs: Atikokan’s Calming Project.”

Jeyan says BUBBLE TUBES,
DIFFUSERS, FIDGET TOYS, DIM
LIGHTING - SOUNDS MORE LIKE A
SOOTHING LIVING ROOM, BUT IN
FACT IT'S A CLASSROOM.
MORE AND MORE CLASSROOMS ACROSS
ONTARIO ARE INCORPORATING
RELAXING STRATEGIES TO KEEP
STUDENTS FOCUSED.
I TRAVELLED TO ATIKOKAN WHERE
THE WHOLE SCHOOL HAS EMBRACED
THE CALMING INITIATIVE.
(music plays)

A clip shows images of a bubble tube and a wind chimes.

A kid says IT'S RELAXING SO YOU CAN
FOCUS MORE ON YOUR WORK THAN THE
NOISE IN THE CLASSROOM, KIND OF
DIM DOWN THE LIGHTS SO IT'S NOT
AS BRIGHT AS THE CLASSROOM.

Jeyan says ST. PATRICK'S SCHOOL
IN ATIKOKAN, ONTARIO, IS TAKING
A CALMING APPROACH TO LEARNING.

A caption reads “Jessica Veenbaas. Special Education Teacher.”

Jessica is in her late thirties, with shoulder length straight brown hair and wears a printed purple shirt and a purple cardigan sweater.

She says OUR HIGHEST-NEEDS STUDENTS
USE THIS ROOM FOR A VARIETY OF
REASONS, WHETHER THEY'RE
STRETCHING ON THE BED OR THEY'RE
HAVING A REST OR THEY'RE READING
A BOOK OVER HERE, OR THEY MIGHT
JUST NEED SOMEWHERE TO HAVE A
BIT OF A TIME OUT, TAKE A
BREATH.

Jeyan says SCENTED DIFFUSERS,
GREEN LIGHT COLOURS,
STRATEGICALLY PLACED BUBBLES AND
ROCKS GIVE STUDENTS A RELAXING
EFFECT.

Jessica says IT'S THE STRESS OF EVERYDAY
LIFE FOR OUR CHILDREN NOW AND
IT'S BAD AND I DON'T KNOW IF
IT'S STRESS AT HOME, STRESS AT
SCHOOL, BUT THE CURRICULUM IS
DOUBLE FROM THE TIME THAT I WAS
IN SCHOOL, BUT THERE'S A LOT OF
LEARNING THAT NEEDS TO
HAPPEN ...

Jeyan says TEACHERS JESSICA
VEENBAAS AND DIANE BOWES ARE THE
MINDS BEHIND THE CALMING
PROJECT.
THANKS TO A 27,000 GRANT
THROUGH THE TEACHER LEARNING AND
LEADERSHIP PROGRAM, THE TWO WERE
ABLE TO LOOK AT WHAT KIND OF
ENVIRONMENT HELPS STUDENTS STAY
FOCUSED WHILE IN THE CLASSROOM.

Jessica says THE WAY THEY FIDGET ALL DAY
IN THEIR DESKS OR THEY WANT TO
MOVE AROUND OR MAYBE SOME OF
THEM ARE ANGRY OR, YOU KNOW, WE
HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THE
SPECTRUM WITH AUTISM, SO I HAVE
THAT BACKGROUND AND I CAN SEE IT
WHETHER IT'S A DIAGNOSIS OR NOT.

Jeyan says THEY TRAVELLED
ACROSS THE PROVINCE, VISITING
CLASSROOMS IN FORT FRANCIS,
THUNDER BAY, AND TORONTO.
THEY ALSO TOURED FACILITIES LIKE
TORONTO'S SICK KIDS MULTISENSORY
ROOM.
THEY'RE TAKE-AWAY: STUDENTS ARE
FOCUSED WHEN THEY'RE IN A ROOM
THAT IS CLUTTER-FREE, THAT HAS
LOW LIGHT AND CALMING COLOURS ON
THE WALL.

The caption changes to “Diane Bowes. Teacher.”

Diane is in her forties, with straight brown hair and wears a black and gray T-shirt and a pink cardigans sweater.

Diane says I ALSO HAVE FIDGET ITEMS IN
MY CLASSROOM.
WE HAVE LOTS OF PLANTS AND
GREENERY.
I ALSO HAVE THE LIGHT COVERS.
AND WE ONLY -- WE'RE REALLY
TRYING TO ONLY USE ONE ROW OF
LIGHTS IN ALL THE CLASSROOMS
INSTEAD OF ALL THREE.
ALL THE CLASSROOMS HAVE THIS
ROW, AT LEAST ONE ROW, OF BLACK
CURTAINS.
AND IT HIDES OUR CLUTTER.
BUT IT ALSO COVERS UP SOME OF
THE ITEMS THAT WOULD NORMALLY
DISTRACT THE CHILDREN.

Jeyan says THE TEACHERS HAVE
ALSO TIED STRETCH BANDS TO THE
BOTTOM OF STUDENTS' CHAIRS TO
HELP GET OUT THEIR ENERGY WHEN
THEY'RE AT THEIR DESKS FOR LONG
PERIODS OF TIME.
THE CALMING INITIATIVE HAS EVEN
OVERFLOWED INTO THE SCHOOL'S
MAIN ENTRANCE, BUT THE
INSPIRATION FOR THE WHOLE
PROJECT CAME FROM THIS CLASSROOM
MORE THAN THREE YEARS AGO.

Diane says WE HAD AT THE TIME TWO VERY,
VERY HIGH-NEED STUDENTS IN OUR
SCHOOL.
THEY COME HERE EVERY DAY TO BE
AROUND THEIR FRIENDS.
THIS IS THEIR HIGHLIGHT OF THEIR
DAY, IS JUST BEING HERE.
THEY DON'T GET TO DO A LOT OF
THINGS THE REST OF OUR CHILDREN
GET TO DO.
SO WE THOUGHT, HOW CAN WE MAKE
THEIR DAYS JUST AWESOME HERE AT
ST. PAT'S?
SO WE CAME UP WITH THIS GREAT
IDEA OF TURNING THEIR ROOM,
BECAUSE THEY DO HAVE THEIR OWN
ROOM BECAUSE OF THEIR NEEDS AND
THEIR MEDICAL NEEDS, HOW CAN WE
JUST ENHANCE THEIR ROOM IN AN
AMAZING WAY?

Jeyan says ONE OF THOSE
STUDENTS IS 12-YEAR-OLD KIRA.
SHE HAS CEREBRAL PALSY, A
CONDITION THAT'S CAUSED BY BRAIN
DAMAGE DURING BIRTH.

The caption changes to “Kirt Pfeiffer. Kira’s dad.”

Kirt is in his forties, with short gray hair and a moustache and he wears a gray sweater.

He says WE KNEW SHE WAS SPECIAL WHEN
SHE WAS BORN.
SHE SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN THE
HOSPITAL AND WE DID WITH HER.
WE NEVER LEFT THE HOSPITAL.
I THINK WE SPENT A COUPLE MONTHS
IN ICU WITH HER.

Jeyan says SHE HAS THE HELP OF
AN EDUCATION ASSISTANT DURING
SCHOOL HOURS.
SHE CAN'T WALK OR TALK BUT SHE
IS REGULARLY IN CLASS WITH HER
PEERS.

Kirt says THEY SAID THEY ARE LIFE
EXPECTANCY WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO
BE A COUPLE YEARS, AND SHE'S NOW
12.
AND THE DOCTORS SAY IT'S
CREDITED TO US, BUT I THINK IT'S
HER WHOLE LIFE, IT'S A CREDIT TO
WHAT SHE'S DONE AT THE SCHOOL,
AT HOME, EVERYTHING.

Jeyan says WHEN SHE'S NOT IN
CLASS, SHE SPENDS A LOT OF TIME
IN THE SCHOOL'S MAIN SENSORY
ROOM, WHICH IS NAMED AFTER
HAYDEN COX, A FORMER STUDENT AT
ST. PATRICK WHO HAD A BIG IMPACT
ON STAFF AND STUDENTS.

Diane cries and says I HAD THIS LITTLE BOY FOR
THREE YEARS, AND HE REALLY
CHANGED MY LIFE AS A TEACHER AND
AS A MOM.
I WANTED -- I WANTED ALL THE
KIDS TO SEE HAYDEN AND OF COURSE
THEY CAN'T ANYMORE BECAUSE HE'S
PASSED NOW.
SO HOW CAN WE REMEMBER HAYDEN,
AND NOT JUST A PHOTOGRAPH OF,
YOU KNOW, WHO'S THAT BOY
WHENEVER THEY WOULD MAYBE NOTICE
IT IN THE LIBRARY?
BUT EVERY DAY, I WANTED HAYDEN'S
SPIRIT TO BE HERE.
NOT JUST IN MY HEART, BECAUSE IT
IS, BUT IN THESE LITTLE ONES.
SO WE WANTED A VISUAL REMINDER
OF HAYDEN.
AND I DON'T KNOW, I JUST GOT THE
IDEA ONE DAY OF A ROAD SIGN.
BECAUSE HE WAS IN A WHEELCHAIR
AND HE WAS ALL OVER THE SCHOOL.

Jeyan says HAYDEN WAS NEVER
ABLE TO SEE THE COMPLETED ROOM,
BUT BOWES AND VEENBAAS SAYS HIS
SPIRIT LIVES ON.
THEY SAW THIS BULLDOG WITH
HAYDEN'S NAME EMBROIDERED ON IT.

Jessica says IT WAS LIKE HE WAS SUPPORTING
US AND THERE WITH US, AND WE
SAID I DON'T CARE HOW MUCH THAT
BULLDOG COSTS, WE'RE GETTING IT,
AND HAYDEN IS COMING HOME WITH
US.

Diane says HAYDEN DESERVED THIS.
AND THE REST OF THE KIDS.
HOW CAN WE SPLASH THIS INTO THE
WHOLE SCHOOL?
WE TALKED TO THE TEACHERS AND
THEY SAID, TELL US WHAT YOU WANT
US TO DO, WE'LL HELP, WE'LL GIVE
YOU IDEAS.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

Jeyan says FOR PARENTS LIKE
KRISTA McQUAY, THE CALMING
STRATEGIES HAVE HAD A BIG EFFECT
ON HER SON, WHO HAS ANXIETY.

The caption changes to “Kristi MQuay. Parent.”

Kristi is in her thirties, with long slightly wavy brown hair with highlights. She wears a black top, black cardigan sweater and a statement black necklace.

She says MENTAL HEALTH FOR ANYBODY,
EVEN ADULTS, RIGHT, IT'S A HUGE
THING THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH A
CRISIS IN OUR COUNTRY, NEVER
MIND JUST IN OUR LITTLE
COMMUNITY.
SO TO START THEM YOUNG AND FOR
THEM TO LEARN THESE DIFFERENT
TECHNIQUES AND DIFFERENT -- HAVE
DIFFERENT RESOURCES AND TO NOT
HAVE THIS FEELING ALL THE TIME
GROWING UP, IT'S WONDERFUL.

Jeyan says THE GOAL IS TO HELP
CHILDREN SELF-REGULATE AND
CONTROL THEIR JITTERS, WHETHER
THAT'S BY GRABBING A FIDGET TOY
AND GOING BACK TO THEIR DESK OR
TAKING A MOMENT TO COLLECT
THEMSELVES IN A QUIET AREA.

Jessica says I JUST WANTED TO MAKE THEIR
EXPERIENCE AT SCHOOL THAT MUCH
BETTER. WE LOVE OUR SCHOOL.
WE'RE PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR
SCHOOL. OUR STUDENTS ARE
EVERYTHING TO US.
AND WHEN THEY'RE HERE, WE WANTED
IT TO BE THE BEST SIX HOURS THAT
IT COULD POSSIBLY BE.
(music plays)

The end credits roll.

Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO.

Editor, David Erwin.

A slate appears with the caption “Ontario Hubs are made possible by: The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman.”

Watch: Atikokan Calming Project