Healthy Minds, Happy Hearts: One California High School Class’s Mission to Create The Perfect Safe Space

March 22, 2018

It was in the wake of the last year’s Las Vegas shooting that special education teacher Kimberly Fleming was inspired to help create a safe space for her students to meditate and de-stress in at school.

“It had been such a difficult and emotional year for everyone and I wanted to do something to help ease tensions,” the Helix Charter High School teacher said. “With the litany of school shootings (around the country), students had been on high alert and I could see that they needed to feel like they had a safe space to decompress at school.”

Kimberly, who refers to the California high school as “a home away from home,” knows that many students rely on the institution to be a place of consistency and emotional support. With a decade’s worth of knowledge about the importance of emotional wellness in adolescent minds, Kimberly felt it was important to offer students a space where they could feel safe and supported at school.

Thus, led by her students, Kimberly submitted a Donors Choose project on their behalf titled “Improving Emotional Wellness Through Mindfulness” to raise money to buy supplies that would create this safe space. Specifically, she was able to buy guided meditation instruction, aromatherapy essential oils, diffusers, a wave projector, and a massage mat for her sensory classroom.

The combination of these resources, Kimberly said, has proven to be essential in creating an “incredibly relaxing environment” for her 70 students. Some of Kim’s students, nicknamed “Super Scotties” have severe disabilities and use the room as a tranquil space they can go to when they are feeling overwhelmed. However, her students aren’t the only ones that use the room. Because she feels that everyone deserves a safe space, Kim invites all students from every grade to share the space as well.

As students started to use these resources, Kimberly said she has noticed a remarkable difference in their wellbeing.

“Many students who suffer from anxiety and depression have come to me and thanked me for providing a space where they felt they could relax and talk openly about their feelings,” she said.

With these resources, Kimberly’s students also have the ability to practice mindfulness. In doing so, she said, students are learning how to enhance their ability to focus on the task at hand, to live in the present moment, to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings, and to learn how to process the overwhelming amount of information that is coming at them on a daily basis.

Since this project’s implementation, Kimberly has also noticed that her students are able to work through their negative emotions.

“Students have come in after having a fight with their parents and just needed to get themselves in the right mental space before being ready to learn,” she said. “Other students will come in during break and lunchtime in order to get away from the external factors that are causing them stress.”

Kim said she is extremely thankful for the opportunity to provide this space for students as it has has additionally taught them the value of kindness.

“I hope that the loving kindness that my students are being exposed to and learning about will translate into more students on our campus practicing loving kindness and feeling connected and loved,” she said.

In regards to what she plans to do with the prize gift card she won as a Born This Way Foundation challenge winner, Kimberly said that she is waiting to discuss that with her students.

“I’m sure they will have a million ideas!” she said. “My dream is to completely transform the sensory space top to bottom by adding comfortable furniture and rugs, having the students paint a mural, installing mood lighting, and possibly even a real water feature. I think we could turn our space into something really special that can be utilized by future students for many years to come.”

To learn more about Kimberly or donate to her Donors Choose projects, click here.


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