Harlem Students Cultivate Emotional Intelligence, Lead Each Other in Meditation

It's reading, writing and meditation at a Harlem elementary school, where students are very zen and—their teachers say—very focused. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed this report.

"Please close your eyes. Take a deep breath, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Again," one student says while others are calmly sitting at their desks with their eyes closed.

It's meditation time, and it happens every day in every classroom at Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School in Harlem. 

"We just want to help them relax so they don't have to be so excited and jumpy that they won't be distracted on their work," says fourth grade student Jordan.

That means peaceful music in the hallways and taking time each day to talk about how they deal with conflict. 

"One time, something happened with me and Kyle so we first discussed it out," one student says.

Plus. about ten minutes of actual meditation each day.

"May I be happy in my own mind," a student recites.

It's part of a school-wide program to teach students emotional intelligence skills. 

Every teacher has been trained in a special curriculum, called RULER, developed at Yale University. Here it's the students, though, starting in kindergarten, who are trained to help run the show. 

"We're called the meditation experts," Jordan says. 

To help students get in touch with their inner selves, there's a color-based mood meter.

"I'm in the blue," one student says.

Principal Dawn Decosta says students need to be taught how to control their emotions. 

"It's just something that we don't learn as a skill, but it is a skill to be aware of yourself and to be emotionally intelligent," Decosta says.

She says it's reduced suspensions and boosted academic performance, exactly what research on teaching emotional intelligence has found.

"They're doing better in school. They have more positive relationships and on top of that, they have better physical and psychological well-being," says child development expert Denise Daniels.

Teachers see it as investment in creating a focused school.

"In order to feel peaceful, we will work quietly, so we can concentrate. Be patient and be calm," the students recite.

Or as the kids say when they're meditating, "May I feel be free from suffering and stress. No stress."

Charter Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.
 

Tune to Spectrum New NY1 on TV, online, online, or on Local On Demand Channel 1020 for:

Road to City Hall, Mon.-Fri. at 7pm and 10pm
In Focus with Cheryl Wills, Sun. at 10:30am & 3:30pm
• On Stage, Sat.-Sun. 9:30am & 7:30pm + Tues. 12:30am
Sports on 1, nightly at 11:35pm and 4am