Space of Mind program fosters outside-the-box learning

Imagine a school where self-awareness is celebrated, students are encouraged to solve math problems by writing on the walls and where applying learned lessons to real life is more important than homework. These are a few of the concepts that make Space of Mind school unique.

Located in a home built in 1896, the program serves students in grades two through 12 and will be expanding to kindergarten next year. “I started the full-time social home-school program in 2010 in my living room and moved into this building in 2011,” said Space of Mind founder and CEO Ali Kaufman. “We are a modern schoolhouse for a social world and a more customized alternative to the traditional school day.”

Space of Mind, 102 N. Swinton Ave., also offers an after-school program for students who attend traditional schools, as well as evening programs for adults and educators and weekend events for families. “We’re really all about infusing social, emotional and creative skills in with academic and life skills,” Kaufman said.
Tenth-grader Lucas Rochwerger has spent the past six years as a Space of Mind student. “I love the individualized curriculum here, and because it’s project-based, you can take your time with things and discover more,” he said. “I appreciate being able to go at my own pace. I’m an independent worker and I’m able to write two essays at one time and multitask like that. I also really like how close-knit the Space of Mind family is. In public schools, there’s sort of this authority wall where you can’t really bond with your teachers, but here, the teachers are very open and they’re all wonderful people. I love Space of Mind.”
Walking through Space of Mind, there’s a different atmosphere from a traditional school building. Tables and brightly colored walls are dry-erase surfaces. In the science room, students are studying climate change at a weather station, while in the music room, a student is solving an equation with his academic coach while he connects music theory and mathematics.

Colorful, contemporary furniture is sprinkled throughout the schoolhouse, creating a coffeehouse feeling. A sparkly gold couch that once sat in designer Betsey Johnson’s personal closet adds glamor to Kaufman’s office area.
The daily schedule is also distinctive.

“We don’t assign boring or exhausting homework,” Kaufman said. “So, we have study hall periods in between classes so students can get their work done here. Instead of homework, we ask that they go home and take a video of themselves applying a lesson they learned or cooking a meal for their family that they learned how to make at school.”

For lunch, in lieu of traditional cafeteria cuisine such as frozen pizza or tater tots, Space of Mind offers organic meals prepared by executive chef Neil Herekar.
“We use produce from our local Swinton Community Garden and other local farms and really like to expand our students’ palates here,” Kaufman said. “Our students also run a business at the Delray Beach Green Market on Saturdays so they can understand sustainable living practices and how to run a business.”

A yoga studio upstairs doubles as a meditation space for twice-daily 15-minute Transcendental Meditation sessions.
“We’re also the first school program in Florida to start and end each day with 15 minutes of meditation,” Kaufman said. “The positive results we’ve been seeing in students from meditating are amazing.”

For fashion-forward students, there is also now a fashion design program headed up by Delray Beach-based fashion designer Amanda Perna, who appeared on seasons 9 and 14 of “Project Runway.”

Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel

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