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Imagine you're working at a school and one of the kids is starting to act up. What do you do?

Traditionally, the answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or suspension.

But in my memory, detention tended to involve staring at walls, bored out of my mind, trying to either surreptitiously talk to the kids around me without getting caught or trying to read a book. If it was designed to make me think about my actions, it didn't really work. It just made everything feel stupid and unfair.


But Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been doing something different when students act out: offering meditation.

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal's office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.

The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it's filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

Two young people meditating

Meditation can have profoundly positive effects on the mind and body

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.


Meditation and mindfulness are pretty interesting, scientifically.

children meditation

A child meditates

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.

Mindful meditation has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Recently, though, science has started looking at its effects on our minds and bodies, and it's finding some interesting effects.

One study, for example, suggested that mindful meditation could give practicing soldiers a kind of mental armor against disruptive emotions, and it can improve memory too. Another suggested mindful meditation could improve a person's attention span and focus.

Individual studies should be taken with a grain of salt (results don't always carry in every single situation), but overall, science is starting to build up a really interesting picture of how awesome meditation can be. Mindfulness in particular has even become part of certain fairly successful psychotherapies.

children yoga

After-school yoga.

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.

Back at the school, the Mindful Moment Room isn't the only way Robert W. Coleman Elementary has been encouraging its kids.

The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that runs other programs as well. For more than 10 years the foundation has been offering the after-school program Holistic Me, where kids from pre-K through the fifth grade practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.

"It's amazing," said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. "You wouldn't think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do."

kids meditating

A child meditates at the Holistic Life Foundation

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.

There was a Christmas party, for example, where the kids knew they were going to get presents but were still expected to do meditation first."As a little kid, that's got to be hard to sit down and meditate when you know you're about to get a bag of gifts, and they did it! It was beautiful, we were all smiling at each other watching them," said Philips.

The kids may even be bringing that mindfulness back home with them. In the August 2016 issue of Oprah Magazine, Holistic Life Foundation co-founder Andres Gonzalez said: "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.'"

The program also helps mentor and tutor the kids, as well as teach them about the environment.

volunteer work

Building a vegetable garden.

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.

They help clean up local parks, build gardens, and visit nearby farms. Philips said they even teach kids to be co-teachers, letting them run the yoga sessions.

This isn't just happening at one school, either. Lots of schools are trying this kind of holistic thinking, and it's producing incredible results.

In the U.K., for example, the Mindfulness in Schools Project is teaching adults how to set up programs. Mindful Schools, another nonprofit, is helping to set up similar programs in the United States.

Oh, and by the way, the schools are seeing a tangible benefit from this program, too.

Philips said that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, there have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Meanwhile, nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, said suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.

Is that wholly from the mindfulness practices? It's impossible to say, but those are pretty remarkable numbers, all the same.


This article originally appeared on 09.22.16

Life with a toddler can be fraught with many challenges.

Anthony Arbaiza, a dad of two from Hershey, Pennsylvania, put it this way:

"Having a toddler is vastly different from a newborn. It's like you traded in your V1.0 model and got back the experimental upgrade that hasn't been debugged yet. It still spurts liquid everywhere but it's more mobile now, so finding inexplicable puddles all over the house is common."


Toddlers are just beginning to discover the world. It's a delightful mix of a sense of wonder combined with the irresistible urge to take things too far. And the most exciting part? They can jump from one to the other in a split second.

Illustrator Grant Snider is a dad too, and is thus intimately familiar with both parts of the toddler mix.

His comic "Life With a Toddler" illustrates the wonderful dichotomy between the two and why together, they make up the best life experience.  

Moments like the ones above happen when you least expect them. And while fleeting, they make all the difference.

Toddlers can be funny, weird, terrifying, confusing, irritating, brilliant, and exhausting, but put that with the moments of pure joy they bring you, and you have a package worth more than anything else in the world.

More

A 10-year-old launched her own charity to bring color to kids across the world.

"If a LOT of people collect just one box of crayons or one coloring book, we can make a bunch of kids happier."

When 10-year-old Bethany Kuster heard that a fourth grade class in Alabama couldn't afford markers and crayons, she knew she had to do something to help get them some.

Bethany says she loves to color because it helps her get her feelings out and there's no wrong way to do it. She couldn't stand the thought of other kids not being able to do the same.

Mr. Kupec, Bethany's teacher at the time, encouraged her to enlist the help of her classmates, and her brothers helped her make a PowerPoint presentation outlining her plan to have people donate markers and crayons. "It explained what I wanted to do to help others and I told them that it would be fun (it's always fun to be kind)," explained Bethany in an email.


And boy did it work.

Everyone in her class stepped up, and in no time at all, they had crates filled with markers and crayons for the fourth grade class in need.

‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

But Bethany didn't stop there. She approached her principals about rallying the rest of the school to collect coloring tools, and soon, Bethany's message was spreading like wildfire through her small town in Pennsylvania. Several local businesses donated — even the garbage men brought her boxes full of markers and crayons.

"It has been unbelievable to see the amount of support she has been given, the number of times people have simply said YES to helping a ten-year-old make the world a little bit happier for other kids," wrote Bethany's mom, Rachel.

The amazing experience inspired Bethany to start Color for Kids — a nonprofit designed to help bring coloring tools to kids all over the country, and eventually the world.

"If a LOT of people collect just one box of crayons or one coloring book, we can make a bunch of kids happier," wrote Bethany.

‌Kids with new coloring books in Billings, Montana.‌ ‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

‌Bethany (in back) with first graders in Reading, Pennsylvania.‌ ‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

Bethany has personally visited schools, soup kitchens, and shelters in Philadelphia and New York City, and she has sent boxes filled with coloring supplies all over the country.

She's even managed to get them to 29 kids in Nepal who were rescued from child trafficking, thanks to a partnership with Next Generation Nepal.

‌Children in Nepal. ‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

So far, Bethany has collected and donated 106,702 crayons, 19,734 markers, and 26,000 colored pencils.

(Anyone else feel incredibly lazy after reading that?) If all this wasn't impressive enough, Bethany took it upon herself to make Color for Kids an official nonprofit, including raising the money and contacting a lawyer to help her with the paperwork.

It took a while to save up enough, but Bethany was diligent about it, and last month, she received a notice from the IRS that Color for Kids is now an officially designated 501(c)(3) organization. That's a pretty huge deal because, as Bethany put it, "that means more businesses can donate now, even Crayola!" She plans to write to the crayon-making giant to let them know, but probably next week, since this week is a "very busy week."

‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

Needless to say, Bethany's long-term goals for Color for Kids are lofty but, based on her track record, totally feasible.

"Well, the very best thing ever would be if every single kid in the world had their own art supplies but I know that the world is very big and that would take a very long time. So I am just going to do as much as I can," Bethany wrote.

Donations from Austin, Texas. ‌Photo via Color for Kids, used with permission.‌

She'd also like to create her own coloring book for boys and girls of all ages because, according to her, it's really hard to find one that everyone likes.

No doubt Bethany's going to continue to change the world for the better. In the meantime, however, her work shows us just how powerful the small seed of a brilliant idea to give back can be and that, sometimes, that's all you need to make a huge difference.

When you think of Compton, California, a few things come to mind.

You might think of rap legends N.W.A. and their three-time-platinum album "Straight Outta Compton" or the Los Angeles suburb's history of violent crime and gang wars in the 1990s.

But odds are, you don't think of cowboys. Until now.


Ivory McCloud and his friend Mike Jones ride along a path under power lines in Compton. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

Before Compton was anything, it was a cowboy town. And for many residents, it still is.

The city has undergone multiple transformations since its incorporation in 1888. It's been majority white and majority black, and now the population is majority Hispanic. But the horses have remained a constant.

"My dad was a cowboy. I'm a cowboy. I grew up in Compton. I live in Compton," horse trainer Ivory McCloud told the Associated Press.

McCloud and Jones ride down a street in Compton. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.  

Richland Farms, one of Compton's four neighborhoods, is zoned for agriculture and always has been. In fact, when Rev. Griffith D. Compton donated land to create the city in the 1880s, he specified that Richland Farms be used that way.

Today, the backyards in this semi-rural section of Compton are still large enough to keep horses and other livestock.

"In our neighborhood, there's about 400 homes, a couple hundred horses, and some goats and cows and chickens," Richland Farms resident Mayisha Akbar told the Associated Press.

Akbar moved her family to Compton more than 30 years ago, namely so her kids would have room to ride horses.

She grew up taking care of animals in Harbor City, another semi-rural town about 10 minutes south of Compton. As an adult, she was raising her family in Torrance, California, and working as a real estate agent when she came across Richland Farms and never looked back.

"I was looking for property for an investor and came to Compton ... and thought it would be a wonderful place to raise my own kids, so we moved over," she said. "But then [I] realized that the community was much different from where we had come from."

Mayisha Akbar greets a horse at the Compton Jr. Posse facility. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

Just as her family arrived, Compton took a turn for the worse. Gang and drug violence reached its peak. Parents and grandparents in her community were desperate to offer their kids safety and support. Akbar invited many of the children over to her house and started teaching them about horses to keep them busy and out of trouble.

As word spread about the project, many suggested Akbar officially form a nonprofit so she could accept donations to keep the good going. In 1988, the Compton Jr. Posse was born.

For nearly 30 years, the Compton Jr. Posse has served this diverse community.

Through the organization's year-round programs, kids learn about riding, equine science, nature, and the outdoors. They even get involved in community service. The programs are available on a sliding scale, and Compton Jr. Posse has served thousands of kids in its 28-year history. This summer alone, more than 300 kids attended sessions!

Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

The young riders groom and care for the horses.

Adrina Player, 9, places a lead on a horse. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

They clean out and manage the stalls.

Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

They prepare their minds and bodies for the work ahead.

Kids exercise prior to riding horses at the Compton Jr. Posse Youth Equestrian Program. Photo by Richard Vogel/Associated Press.

And get to work learning the ins and outs of this challenging, competitive sport.

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

There are also opportunities for students to participate in competitions and put their science knowledge and new skills to use for their community and country.

Compton Jr. Posse participants have advocated for equal access to the outdoors in Sacramento and represented the U.S. at the World Ranger Congress in Arusha, Tanzania and the International Conference of Outdoor Interpretation in South Korea. Jr. Posse riders have competed in countless regional and national competitions.

"Part of what happens when you are in a program like this, especially competing in horse shows, is that it takes you into communities that don't look like your own community," Akbar said. "So the people that we engage and develop relationships with are people that can help them with their future careers and help them go to college."

Nathan Allan Williams Bonner riding Cuba in a competition. Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

That's right, Compton Jr. Posse continues to support students after graduation.

22 CJP alumni are enrolled in college this semester. Each semester they stay in school, they're eligible to earn a scholarship from the organization. Many also return to Compton Jr. Posse during summer breaks to teach the next generation of riders.

"We encourage them to come back and pay it forward," Akbar said. "Last summer we hired 26 of our alumni students to come back and work our school camps."

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.

The cowboys (and cowgirls) of Compton are remarkable young people carrying on the tradition of their city's deep agricultural roots.

The lessons they learn and skills they build with the Compton Jr. Posse (like patience, persistence, confidence, and trust) will carry them to bold, bright futures. Possibly on horseback.

"They're just kids," Akbar said. "They want to belong. They want better for themselves and their families. Our program has opened their eyes to possibilities."

Photo courtesy of Compton Jr. Posse/Facebook.