Setting the Stage of Calm in Newark Public Schools: Introducing The Hammock Mindfulness Space

(Newark, NJ—February 3, 2020) Sussex Avenue School in partnership with the Newark Yoga Movement (NYM) is proud to announce the launch of The Hammock, a mindfulness space that continues to set the stage of calm in the school for both faculty and students. There’s endless enthusiasm, excitement and appreciation for this space, launched on January 15, 2020 to the school’s staff.

Principal Darleen Gearhart was appointed in 2012 when “Sussex Avenue was part of a Newark Public Schools’ initiative launched in 2012 to turn the city’s poorest performing schools into successful centers for education.”

During the last seven years, students’ stress and anxiety has significantly decreased through the use of self-regulating tools, mindfulness, and yoga provided by NYM. This focus and peacefulness among students and faculty is deemed a tremendous success. 

The Hammock is a space for staff to primarily recharge, relax and rejuvenate. This versatile room offers several mindful areas in which to experience inspirational books, meditative percussion, mandala coloring, creative writing, yoga, and of course hammocks. 

Students will also use the space during designated school yoga days and open time. Because of the calm felt as soon as one enters, it’s the perfect space for the school’s social worker, art therapist and mindful percussion programs to be held.

The Hammock is for educators. A 2017 representative survey of 4,000 educators conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association found that 61% of the time, teachers were stressed. Another study noted that when teachers are stressed, student’s well-being and achievement tend to decline. Source: A research round up. Education Week June 2017

Principal Gearhart noted to her staff: “We built this room for you. The better you are, the better you are for students. Teaching is the most difficult job there is. It drains you emotionally, physically, and spiritually so we created this space to replenish you. To help you be better, for yourself and for all of us.”

Assistant Superintendent, Kathy Duke-Jackson stopped in to see the new room and asked Principal Gearhart if she had noticed a difference in the staff and students since having yoga and mindfulness at the school for the last several years.  “The difference is tremendous,” said Gearhart.

NYM teachers volunteered to help put the room together including painting the walls. Additional help came from Jersey Cares, students from both Rutgers University and Montclair State University, and a group of Sussex Avenue students. The beautiful mandalas visualizing the chakras (or energy centers in the body) were all hand painted by former NYM guide Ruth Meagher who had taught through NYM at Sussex Avenue previously.

Additionally, NYM collaborated with architect Irina Schneid, principal of Scharc Studio LLC and founder of Impact: Workshp, a design advocacy fellowship empowering women to impact social change through design. After a chatting with NYM Executive Director, Danielle Horowitz, she was on board to help.

Over eight weeks, Impact: Workshp chose colors and materials and figured out how to aesthetically divide the room into three key areas, while being able to always see what is going on in the entire room (a requirement in a school setting) and creating function. The final selection of macramé dividers are interactive and functional and even have a set of beads on them for someone to breathe slowly while moving the beads. Yoga mats are stored in the built in baskets and yoga cards with specific sequences for CALM, ENERGY, PEACE and GROUNDING are clipped for easy viewing.

Teachers were so enthused about the entire room whether they were coloring, reading some inspiring quotes, stretching, sitting quietly or laying in a hammock.

“I’m excited because now I have somewhere to go. The first thing I want to do is stretching.”—Sussex Avenue Educator 

The Hammock also pipes in mindful percussion music created by the school’s 4th and 7th graders. They were guided by Young Audiences NJ & PA for 10 weeks last year (NYM helped provide mindful context) to provide this outcome. This particular program was possible due to a grant by Victoria Foundation who also earmarked some funds for The Hammock.

“When a school has a stage of calm, academic and life learning happens. This is what has been happening at Sussex Avenue School for the last seven years” states Debby Kaminsky, founder of Newark Yoga Movement.

For more information, please contact:

Nancy Deering, Interim Executive Director, Communications:

Darleen Gearhart, Principal Sussex Avenue School:

Debby Kaminsky, Founder Newark Yoga Movement:

About The Newark Public Schools District

The Newark Public Schools District, with 66 schools, 5,877 employees and a student population of 37,291 is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in New Jersey. Its origin dates back to 1676. Barringer High School, in Newark’s North Ward, is the third oldest public high school in the nation. The ethnic diversity of the city provides a rich educational experience for pre-kindergarten to secondary school students. The district continues to revise its services to meet the changing needs of students.