Relaxation Room Helps WCU Students Alleviate Stress As They Prepare for Final Exams This Week
From a global pandemic to upcoming final exams to commencement in December and just about everything in between, stress continues to loom large for many students. With this in mind, two students from the Honors College, Mary (Molly) Parkes and Courtney Purdy, decided to use their honors capstone project to put the ‘chill’ factor in the lives of West Chester University students by creating a full-fledged relaxation room. Thanks to the honor students’ brainchild and a donation of more than $8,500 sensory furniture pieces from Fun and Function LLC in Merion Station, a soothing environment has been created for all WCU students, especially those students who have autism, in the most natural space on campus --- the quiet first floor of the University’s Francis Harvey Green Library. Final exams for West Chester University students run from December 14 – 18, 2021.
Named after the University’s beloved Golden Ram mascot, the “Relaxin’ Rammy Corner” has been especially popular this fall with students returning to in-person classes and will continue to act as a major stress-buster source as students prepare for final exams.
The Relaxin’ Rammy Corner is as comfy cozy as it is tranquil and serene with a hammock swing, lounger hammock chairs, gel floor tiles, fidgets, noise cancellation headphones, and more. The room features fun things like the Squeeze Me Seat, the Mega Mushy Smushy, the ‘Dawn ‘Til Dusk Effects Wheel, the Busy Fingers Weighted Sensory Pillow, and the list goes on. The room, which boasts over 20 sensory furniture pieces, is a dream come true (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pivWcUl-isI).
“We noticed that there was a need to have a designated space on campus where students could decompress and regulate themselves amidst all the stresses of college,” said Purdy, a recent graduate of WCU’s Class of 2021 who majored in exercise science with a minor in pre-occupational therapy and psychology. “While Relaxin’ Rammy is open to all students, it has been especially designed to support students with autism. The room brings to light the supports that students with varying abilities need to reduce anxieties, while, at the same time, helping students with neuro-typical needs cope with day-to-day life events. Everyone benefits.”
“With a background in the field of education, I have spent lots of student-teaching time in classrooms with young people who have numerous abilities,” said Parkes, a secondary special education and mathematics major who will graduate from WCU during commencement this December. “I’ve always thought about what could be possible for these students as they take their next steps to college. Creating a sensory room just seemed to be a logical project for Courtney and me to take on, because we could see all of the possibilities from educational and occupational-therapy lenses.”
“Courtney and Molly came to me with their idea to create a sensory room on campus as part of their capstone project,” said Director of WCU’s Dub-C Autism Program Cherie Fishbaugh. “I was thrilled with their concept to establish a calming space that would allow all students to decompress and reduce anxieties. This shows how aware our students are of others’ needs and how inclusive-minded they tend to be.”
To make the room come alive, Purdy and Parkes worked with Fishbaugh, who inspired them when they were just sophomores. Fishbaugh gave them lots of ideas and names of professionals to speak with as they did their research.
The team wanted the therapeutic space to be useful and meaningful to students, so they made sure to secure students’ thoughts about what would be helpful for their needs, as well as what would be desired for their eclectic tastes. To make sure they were on the right track, Purdy and Parkes met with experts in the field who had completed similar sensory projects, including the Eagles Autism Foundation.
“When we were compiling our list of resources for the room, we found that the items were costly and really adding up quickly,” shared Purdy. “During one of our meetings, we mentioned our idea to Fun and Function. The next time that we spoke, Fun and Function offered to donate all the products for the room. Wow! We were surprised, thrilled, and ready to hit the ground running.”
The first-floor library has been witnessing the benefits of the sensory room. Associate Dean of Libraries Amy Ward says that the timing could not be more perfect. “University Libraries has been actively working to find ways to promote positive self-care habits that balance the academic rigor our students encounter at West Chester University,” said Ward. “Including the Relaxin’ Rammy Corner in Francis Harvey Green Library is highlighting the importance of taking breaks to refocus, de-stress, or just enjoy a little play time in between study time. We are excited to be a partner in this initiative because this will have a broad reach across campus, and we believe in its potential to provide continued support to our students.”