At most elementary schools, bad behavior lands you in the principal’s office. Not at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore, though. No, staff there handle troublemakers a little differently.
At Robert W. Coleman, kids who misbehave get sent to the ‘mindful moment room’ – a relaxing environment filled with soft cushions and pink Himalayan salt lamps.
It’s all thanks to an initiative from the Holistic Life Foundation. HLF is a non-profit organization founded by Andres Gonzalez and brothers Atman Smith and Ali Smith, all of whom grew up in West Baltimore.
They launched their efforts at Robert W. Coleman out of a desire to provide kids from the crime-ridden areas with healthy coping strategies for stress and anger.
Apparently it’s working; in the 2013/2014 school year, the school handed out a grand total of zero suspensions.
“Instead of the students fighting or lashing out, they started to use words to solve their problems,” said Ms. Thompson, principal at Robert W. Coleman.
According to Andres Gonzalez, kids are even taking their meditation skills with them when they leave school.
“We’ve had parents tell us, ‘I came home the other day stressed out and my daughter said, Hey mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe,'” Gonzalez said.
Thanks to the Holistic Life Foundation, kids at Robert W. Coleman also start each day with breathing exercises conducted over the PA system. As of 2014, 90 kids enrolled in the extracurricular yoga classes, also provided by Holistic Life Foundation. When choosing kids, staff focused on those with anger issues and/or low self-esteem.
“The after school program is benefiting the school in tremendous ways,” said Ms. Thomas, a teacher at Robert W. Coleman. “I know for a fact that the services they’re providing to the students helps them calm down.”