Tiger Den is a calming oasis in a stressful world.

April 12, 2022

Shelby Middle School Principal Jessica Danielson in the Tiger Den.

Tiger Den is a calming oasis in a stressful world.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor. 

SHELBY — Have you ever had a bad day and just needed a little time and space to de-stress? 

Being a middle school student can be particularly stressful, so the Shelby Middle School Improvement Team came up with an idea to help navigate preteens and teens through those rough seas.

It’s called the Tiger Den, which is a small, cozy room near the school office and counselor’s office where students can seek some solace. 

“Right now, post-pandemic, we’re all struggling,” said Shelby Middle School Principal Jessica Danielson. “We really need to make sure we’re paying attention. We’re seeing kids with depression and kids with anxiety. Middle schoolers in particular have always been an up-and-down roller coaster of emotions. Emotions are tenfold with our kids right now, post-pandemic.”

Counseling options are available for students dealing with long-term problems, but there wasn’t much help for kids having short-term meltdowns until the Tiger Den was established.

The Shelby Adolescent Health Center that opened in 2018 has a full-time social worker that helps students work through problems. It is a school-based health center located inside the Shelby Middle School that provides medical and counseling services for students ages 10-21 years old who live in or attend school in Oceana County

Special education students have access to a social worker at the school, and general ed students have access to a social worker through the West Shore Educational Service District, said Danielson. 

“But then what happens when we have these long-term things, but we still have kids in moments in time that are having a crisis? What do we do with those kids who are in crisis at a moment in time?” 

That’s how the Tiger Den refocus room concept came along. “Kids just need a space to process their feelings in order to recover and then can usually go back to class,” said the principal. “That’s our goal is to make it so they can get back to class and be effective learners.

“Our middle school kids are going to have friendship issues or something going on at home, and all of sudden in the middle of math class, something hits them and they’re in tears. And they might not always want to talk about it.”

Tiger Den provides a space for students to have some “me time,” said Danielson. “We offer that space hoping they can get their emotions out and then they can get back to class.”

Tiger Den offers calming colors, low lighting, comfortable seating options and relaxing activities such as coloring books. “It’s a calming and soothing space.

“It’s not for behavior — it’s for kids who just need that break.” The aim is to help kids with their emotions before it becomes a behavioral issue.

School staff collect data about the Tiger Den by having the kids sign in and out. “Just so that we know how we can make this better.”

The Tiger Den reduces the amount of times students might go home because of an emotional issue, thus reducing absenteeism.

Some students need to talk through their emotions with a counselor after their Tiger Den break, while some other kids do not.

The Tiger Den was conceptualized by the school improvement team’s goal of serving students’ social-emotional wellbeing, said Danielson.

“When you’re a middle schooler, little things can be really big things.”

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