School Mindfulness for Giving Twosday

Esther Wyss-Flamm, for the Shuttle

It’s back-to-school month! Many of us enjoy the sweet ritual of shopping for pencils and notebooks, socks and T-shirts for our school-going kids. We might even harbor a sugar-coated memory of the excitement of reconnecting with classmates after a long, hot summer.

That nostalgia bubble may burst when we are confronted with the reality of Philadelphia schools: Along with the well-documented poor condition of many buildings and facilities, there are profound shortfalls in educational and intrapersonal outcomes as well:

  • Seventy percent of students perform below age-level proficiency standards.
  • One in nine students is placed on at least one out-of-school suspension annually.
  • Only 63 percent of teachers attend 95 percent or more days of school.
  • Assault and disorderly conduct account for 59 percent of the 6,000 “serious incidents” reported annually.

(Sources: 2015/16 District Scorecard; 2015-16 and 2016-17 PSD Open Data.)

The classroom can become a holding place for the emotions kids experience in neighborhoods, on the playground and in family life. Small wonder that this can negatively impact students’ ability to learn, grow and excel.

The School Mindfulness Project is passionately committed to being part of shifting this context, one school at a time. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, SMP has developed and piloted a schoolwide curriculum that includes school administrators and teachers as well as students.

With the SMP program:

  • Students learn movements and tools that can serve them through the rest of their lives — to become aware of breath, help with calming, increase focus, make healthier, more skillful choices and be less reactive to the world around them.
  • Teachers experience a more receptive classroom climate, greater job satisfaction and increased student engagement.
  • School communities enjoy improved academic outcomes, healthier students and a more resilient school culture.

School climate change is a tall order. Ultimately the results are most profound at the level of the individual student. In the words of a fourth-grader at the Edwin M. Stanton School: “Yoga and meditation help me come to my safe place. It helps me concentrate on my work.”

Imagine classrooms of students who know how to come to their “safe place,” learn self-regulation skills they can use at school, at home and in their future work settings! Imagine how this could contribute to a more peaceful school environment with positive ripple effects across the city!

Weavers Way Co-op asked the Health and Wellness Committee to nominate a nonprofit organization for donations on “Giving Twosday” in September. For all the reasons described above, committee members selected the School Mindfulness Project.

Please consider giving $2 or more at the register when you shop at the Co-op on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Every dollar you donate will be used to give students tools that can serve them for a lifetime. For example, $2 buys raisins for a classroom to learn about mindful eating; $12 buys materials to make “mind jars” to help settle difficult emotions.

If you don’t get to Weavers Way on Giving Twosday, please consider making a donation to SMP online at And while you’re there, sign up for the newsletter and join the movement!

Esther Wyss-Flamm is a yoga and mindfulness instructor. With a professional background in organizational development, Esther also promotes and teaches mindful leadership skills. She has been involved with the Weavers Way Health & Wellness Committee for the past 3 1/2 years and is a member of the Weavers Way Board of Directors. Reach her at