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Memphis mother starts her own micro school for cultural identity, social emotional learning

“For me, education is about learning versus knowing. I don’t think there’s an endpoint or an arrival,” said Lab School of Memphis founder Coi Morrison.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis mother searched high and low for a school that would teach her children social emotional skills and cultural identity.

When she couldn’t find one to fit, she started her own.

Picture education as circular — never ending and always spinning.

“You’re a life-long learner,” said Lab School of Memphis guide, Sarah Hooker.

“For me, education is about learning versus knowing. I don’t think there’s an endpoint or an arrival,” said Lab School of Memphis founder Coi Morrison.

Morrison is an educator and mother of twins who each have their own unique educational needs.

“The interesting thing about having two children that are born at the same time that are the same age to the same parents is you become keenly aware of how very different children can be,” said Morrison.

Morrison searched for the right school for her children, but didn’t find one, leading her to create the Lab School of Memphis.

“I call it a boutique learning environment because it’s like going to any other boutique or clothing boutique. They know you when you walk in. They’ve got things pulled for you. They know your likes. They know your dislikes. They know your preferences, what works for you, what doesn’t. I like to think of the Lab School in much the same way,” said Morrison.

The school focuses on self-awareness, cultural identity, critical thinking, and social emotional learning.

“As important as it is for learner to read, write, do math, it is equally important for us to help learners to regulate their emotions and to problem solve and to work through resolutions with their peers,” said Morrison.

Sarah Hooker, the school’s guide, has a mental health background.

“We really have to give them the autonomy to know what they need, what they want, what they’re feelings, and we really have to take it for face value. I think if we are able to model that, as they grow older, they’ll feel empowered and they can really express how they’re feeling and thinking,” said Hooker.

Morrison said it's a cyclical feeling mastering awareness, growth, and expression.

“It cultivates community,” said Morrison. “Watching our learners flourish emotionally and academically and become confident in who they are…That feels really good.”

The Lab School of Memphis first opened last August for children 3 to 6 years old. Next year, they're expanding to include children up to 10. Open admissions start in February.

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