ECC senior Micah Gilliam shows off one of the many resources available to students in the new SMART Labs, located at both high school campuses.
NOVEMBER 2, 2022 | EFCTS
The life of today's student does not start and stop at the schoolhouse doors. It follows them inside. While educators always want students to strive for a good grade, or prepare for employment, military service, or continuing education, everyday life challenges have the potential to hinder their abilities to do so.
To address the obstacles to student learning, Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools opened two SMART (Stress Management and Resiliency Training) Labs, one at each of its two high school campuses. These specialized labs provide students with a safe place equipped to address those obstacles and help students recalibrate in order to reenter their learning environment more prepared to succeed.
Eastland-Fairfield Director of Student Support Systems, Mr. Dwight Carter, is tasked with removing barriers to student learning and acknowledges that especially after the COVID-19 pandemic young people, nationwide, are experiencing higher rates of mental health and wellness challenges. He envisions these labs as a way to help students cope with emotions and feelings associated with life challenges and mental well-being.
“I see this as an opportunity to help them [students] develop the skills to be more resilient,” said Carter. He went on to say that these labs will help give students the strategies and tools to combat stress, anxiety, depression, or other negative inputs that impact learning.
The inside of the Eastland Career Center SMART Lab
When a student identifies the need to use the SMART Lab their first encounter is its most important tool, the HeartMath emWave biometric measurement software. By placing a small clip on their ear, the software measures a student's heart rhythm pattern. Based on the reading, a student will engage in a series of breathing exercises to help regulate their heart rate or find another resource in the room that may achieve the same goal. The student will then have their heart rhythm patterns monitored and once the reading shows they are within a healthy range the student will then return to class better prepared to learn.
With the wide range of challenges that students encounter so too must the remedies to address them. Each SMART Lab has an array of tools and resources that students can tap into in order to refocus. These may include journals, art supplies, board games, stress balls, soothing music, Play-Doh? , yoga mats, fidget spinners, and many other stimulating activities and items. Motivational posters line the lab walls. Doodles, drawings, and inspirational messages left behind by fellow students and staff members adorn the hanging whiteboards. Light weights and a treadmill are also available in case there is a need for physical exertion, as well.
The inside of the Fairfield Career Center SMART Lab
Each SMART Lab is staffed with a school counselor or social worker to administer those exercises, help navigate the resources in the lab, or to serve students in whatever capacity necessary based on their needs.
Carter made clear that the SMART Lab is not a place to hang out, the nurse’s clinic, or a place to escape work, but instead has a very intentional purpose for students in need. The goal is to return students back to a learning mindset and help prevent the need for future visits, which Carter says is one indicator of success for the SMART Lab.
Carter said that success can be seen, “when there is a decrease in frequent visits from the same students.”
He continued that the second indicator of success will be, “when more students know about and staff members are aware of the SMART Lab and what it can do. Then we can start tracking the progress of student performance for those that visit the lab.”
While Carter is proud that Eastland-Fairfield has made two SMART Labs operational in less than one year, he was quick to credit others that identified the need and desire to provide those resources to students. Carter said the idea was brought forth by Fairfield Career Center student Sofia Klautky ’22 (Nail Services, Pickerington Central) who was a Nail Services senior at the time. She shared that there was a SMART Lab at one of her previous schools, and how amazing and helpful it would be to have one at the career center. Assistant Principal Dakia Washington elevated the idea to Carter, which led him and his team to Pickerington Local School District’s Lakeview Middle School for inspiration. Together, they responded to the need, explored the idea, and made it a reality at both career centers.
In just over a month of having the labs open, students are reporting that they are already greatly benefitting students. Senior Micah Gilliam (Hamilton Township, Medical Office) has used the lab on multiple occasions since it has become available and cites that it has had an incredibly positive impact on her learning experience.
“When it opened up, I was excited,” said Gilliam. “I think it will definitely help a lot of other students, too.”
Gilliam is refocused on completing the Medical Office program and now advocates for the lab and its effectiveness to her peers. She has become an ambassador for the SMART Lab, educating her classmates about its existence and what it can do to help others stay on track for success.
While the labs and the systems that run them are still new, Carter, his team, and students like Gilliam are already identifying ways to improve how the labs operate and serve students, which will make for an even more impactful experience in the second semester and beyond.
ECC social worker, Ms. Warner, and a student demonstrate the emWave software.
Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools is the seventh-largest career and technical education district, geographically, in the State of Ohio. We serve more than 5,000 students in 16 school districts throughout Franklin, Fairfield and Pickaway counties. Eastland-Fairfield provides more than 35 programs to over 1,600 high school and adult students. The district has two main campuses — Eastland Career Center in Groveport and Fairfield Career Center in Carroll, with satellite locations at four of our associate high schools: Gahanna Lincoln, Groveport Madison, New Albany, and Pickerington North.
Founded in 1969. Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools’ mission is to engage, enrich, and equip students every day in every experience. We prepare students to pursue their life’s next E: Employment, Enlistment, Entrepreneurship, and/or additional Education. Visit us online at www.eastlandfairfield.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for regular updates, fun content and information.