Reiche’s Peace Place offers third through fifth-grade students a quiet place to go if they don’t feel like going outside for recess. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Recognizing students may not always feel physically or emotionally up for a rambunctious  recess, Reiche Elementary School operates Peace Place, a quiet, talking-free area where students can go instead of playing outside.

“Its an alternative voice level zero, calm body alternative to going out to recess,” said Susan Wiggin, a clinical social worker and the school’s transition specialist. “It has nothing to do with good behavior or bad behavior and is not to be used as a behavior modification.”

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students can read, rest, draw or do other quiet activities at Peace Place, which is staffed by an AmeriCorp volunteer and social work interns. Each classroom has six Peace Place passes available and students can use them, no questions asked, Wiggin said.

Wiggin, who helped to design the space, said Peace Place is also made available for students who are fasting for Ramadan or other religious purposes and do not want to be in the cafeteria during lunchtime.

Over the last year, nearly 1,000 third-graders, 800 fourth-graders and close to 400 fifth-graders have used Peace Place. In a survey, students said their top reasons for seeking out Peace Place was because they didn’t want to go outside (55%), they were tired (39%), they needed a break (31%) and they just like the quiet space (24%).

“We are so proud of the response we are able to provide for kids that need alternative recess and not in a punitive way,” said Reiche lead teacher Renee J. Bourgoine-Serio.

Peace Place is an offshoot of the school’s efforts to be a “trauma-informed school,” understanding that many students may arrive at school tired, hungry or dealing with a difficult situation outside of school, such as homelessness, abuse or other traumatic situations.

“As a trauma-informed school, you need to be responsive to kids and needs and able to recognize when difficult settings will create stress, like with a really loud lunchroom or really loud playground, so you need a place for someone who may have a hard time with all that stimulus,” Bourgoine-Serio said.

Wiggin said Reiche’s Peace Place is unique in Portland schools, but schools across the country offer similar spaces.

She would like to see the concept expanded to include a similar place where students can go if they are experiencing behavior that is impacting their education or the education of others that would be staffed by counselors or clinicians.

“A lot of work needs to happen before that could be implemented,” she said.

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