The Making of Zen Den


Amina Parks

The Zen Den Space.

Amina Parks, Staff Writer

What would be your ideal calm – aka zen – setting? Some may say their room is their zen space while others find nature to be their space to enjoy zen. However, for those who want to find zen and have a way to stay calm and stress-free during school hours, Paint Branch offers the Zen Den, where students have the luxury of a space that is focused on helping them feel calm and relaxed. 

The Zen Den was founded by four AVID students who are now seniors and supported by counselor Mrs. Kimmel during the winter of 2020. According to Mrs. Kimmel, they asked her about having a space to relax and chill during school hours. Mrs. Kimmel notes that they wanted to make it known that the space was created to help, “highlight the importance of being mindful and being able to take care of mental health.” She adds that having the space could “help other students be more aware of mental health influence.” 

Mrs. Kimmel took the idea to the then PB principal Dr.Yarbrough including a request for an area to make the Zen Den. According to Mrs. Kimmel,  Dr. Yarbrough was very supportive of the idea and immediately found her space and gave some funding to add items, color, and furniture to the room. Mrs. Kimmel explained that the space for her was a little “odd” at first glance as it was being used at the time as an art gallery, though it was rarely used unless an art event was occurring. 

No matter what the space was, Mrs. Kimmel and the students were thrilled to have the support from the administration and the space to offer students. For Mrs. Kimmel, this was confirmation that mental health was becoming more well-known and accepted as a real issue, and was being relevant in Montgomery county public schools for students to recognize mental health which was good timing for the Zen Den.

While the Zen Den seems to be thriving with students being back in the building, Mrs. Kimmel has ideas to add to the space to create more attention. One of the ideas is to have the space be more utilized, this is a focus for Mrs. Kimmel that doesn’t think students are entirely open to the space just yet. In fact, she feels that students are somewhat hesitant to come into the Zen Den. 

Other ideas Mrs. Kimmel has in mind are adding activities such as yoga, knitting – which would have the knitting club come in from time to time – and even a drum circle session. While these are excellent ideas that she hopes come to fruition, Mrs. Kimmel states, “I think, for now, you know until there is a demand for it, probably just have it as a space.” 

The  Zen Den has definitely been impactful at Paint Branch as Mrs. Kimmel has noticed that after students attend the Zen Den they look more relaxed and are clearly happy to be able to

Mrs. Kimmel shows off the Glitter Bottles made in the Zen Den.

have time to themselves in that space. Perhaps these feelings come from the activities they do during Zen Den sessions such as the day that they made “glitter bottles” which Mrs. Kimmel was holding when she spoke about the space.  

Another popular feature at the Zen Den has been visits from a therapy-dog, a huge Newfoundland named Lilah. According to Mrs. Kimmel, Lilah’s most recent visit to the Den was in early October, but she will be back again on December 22nd, which she knows will bring the Zen Den much buzz. 

Going into the Zen Den space itself is calming. The walls are covered with beautiful hanging bright lights and the overall feeling of the space is calm and tranquil, plus it has a fresh scent that is almost citrusy. The area is fairly small, holding only 12 people which prompts Mrs. Kimmel to remind people to sign up to be sure and have a spot. Giving students the option to sit on foldable chairs or yoga mats allows students to feel comfortable in the Zen Den, and the colorful lighting and wall decor – which displays students’ photographs and artwork fit the Zen Den’s decor perfectly.

If you ever feel the need to find a tranquil calm space to relax during the school day, be sure to sign up for the Zen Den. Click on the link below and don’t feel hesitant to encourage others to sign up: