'The science of stress relief': New Utah partnership seeks to provide kids with resources for stress

Stress relief backpacks available for checkout at local libraries

In a move to combat the stress on children that has been induced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah STEM Action Center is partnering with the Utah State Library Division to bring stress-coping tools directly to kids by distributing hundreds of stress relief kits throughout Utah libraries.

The Utah STEM Action Center and the Utah State Library Division delivered 72 backpack kits to Whitmore Library. "Hacking Your Brain: The Science of Stress Relief" is a kit of materials in a backpack that is available for the public to check out from their local library.

"The idea of the whole program is to provide resources at our local libraries across the state for youth, children (and) parents to come pick up, take home and learn about STEM and learn how it works in different areas of life," said Tami Goetz, director of the Utah STEM Action Center. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

The backpacks were supposed to be distributed as back-to-school backpacks, but the distribution was delayed due to supply chain issues.

"We know a lot of our youth, our children, have been struggling with stress with the current issues that have been going on the last 18 to 24 months," Goetz said. "The team at STEM Action Center and the state library division have been working to look at the signs of stress and some of the issues in science that kids can learn about stress relief."

"The Science of Stress Relief" kits include:

  • "Good Morning Yoga," by Mariam Gates
  • "Breathe Like a Bear," by Kira Willey
  • "Kids Learn to Crochet," by Lucinda Guy
  • Mindfulness activity cards
  • Movement activity cards
  • Creation activity cards.
  • Journal
  • Feathers
  • Thinking putty
  • Jump rope
  • Crochet materials (H/8 crochet hook, 5 mm yarn, scissors, stitch counter).
Tami Goetz, STEM Action Center director, talks about The Science of Stress Relief kits at the Whitmore Library in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday, Feb. 15. Four hundred backpacks will go to libraries throughout Utah, filled with mindfulness, movement and creation activity cards, journals, crochet materials, jump ropes, thinking putty, feathers and books on yoga and breathing.
Tami Goetz, STEM Action Center director, talks about The Science of Stress Relief kits at the Whitmore Library in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday, Feb. 15. Four hundred backpacks will go to libraries throughout Utah, filled with mindfulness, movement and creation activity cards, journals, crochet materials, jump ropes, thinking putty, feathers and books on yoga and breathing. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

They are geared for second through fourth grade students, focusing on different activities centered around movement, mindfulness, deep breathing, calm-down space and creation to help kids handle stress while also having fun and learning about STEM. After the kits have been used — they can be checked out for a month — kits can be brought back and restocked by libraries.

"The team at the STEM Action Center put a lot of work and research into activities and themes around science that were appropriate for the grades that we were targeting," Goetz said. "Asking the fundamental question, 'What's fun, what do kids do every day, what is accessible to all kids in that you could put in a backpack and make it accessible?'"

The partnership between the Utah STEM Action Center and the Utah State Library Division started as a pilot program with about 120 backpacks that would be distributed between 10 libraries. It has since grown, with a plan to distribute 400 backpacks to more than 50 libraries throughout the state.

The STEM action center and the library division are planning to roll out another set of stress relief kits before school is out for the summer, called the "oceans of fun" backpack that aligns with the summer reading theme for the library division, Goetz said.

Additionally, they're working to get Spanish language backpack materials to reach even more kids in Utah.

Goetz said folks should stay tuned for upcoming projects through the STEM action center and the state library division as they work to "reimagine the spaces in a library," including a hydroponics kit and an early math learning project.

The stress relief kits were funded by a federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. People wanting to pick up a backpack can find the library closest to them that carries the kits here.