This week, children across America are returning to school from the holiday break. Most are dreading it….except perhaps the students at Coleman Elementary.
Based in inner city Baltimore, Coleman Elementary has become a sort of “oasis of calm” for its student body. It all started when the school introduced a “Mindful Moment” room in 2016. The room is replete with lamps, plush pillows, and yoga mats. It also smells of lavender oil.
Whenever children are disruptive at Coleman Elementary, they are not sent to detention or the Principal’s office. Instead, they head directly to the Mindful Moment Room. There, volunteers from the Holistic Life Foundation guide the children through a series of deep breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness activities. In the words of coordinator Kirk Phillips, “It’s amazing. You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. [But] they do.”
By the time they leave the room, the children feel calm, “re-centered”, and at peace. As one child reports, “I did some deep breathing, had a little snack, and I got myself together. Then I apologized”. Hence, it is no surprise that the number of suspensions at Coleman Elementary dropped from 4 in 2015 to 0 in 2016.
Upon returning to class, the children can focus for longer periods of time. They are also better able to cope with anger, stress, and anxiety. One child explains, “When I get mad at something or somebody, I just take some deep breaths, keep doing my work and tune everyone out”. Another adds that during an exam “I took deep breaths to stay calm and just finish the test“.
But the benefits extend well beyond the schoolhouse. By applying the same meditative techniques, the kids can also achieve nirvana at home. Sadly, for the pupils at Coleman Elementary, “home” can be a source of “overwhelming external stimuli and trauma”. Over 80% come from households that struggle financially[xi]. Some live in boarded-up row houses without adequate food and electricity. Others have family members who are incarcerated or victims of violence. For such students, mindfulness activities are essential tools to “self-regulate and manage themselves and their emotions”—not just for a day but “hopefully for the rest of their lives”.
In light of the results at Coleman Elementary, the Holistic Life Foundation wants to “take their program far and wide”. Already, one inspired teacher at Minnesota’s Wayzata West Middle School has introduced meditation at the beginning and end of every class. Want to create a meditation nation? Give to the Holistic Life Foundation or our partners, the Alumni for Public Schools, and the Open Heart Spiritual Center!