Bringing Mindfulness to the Schools
by Carin Winter

crowd of children doing yoga

Mindfulness has gained significant popularity in mainstream media over the past decade, and rightfully so. Stress has become a prevalent issue in our society, yet schools often prioritize academic achievement and physical exercise as means of managing stress, overlooking the importance of nurturing our minds.

As a former school social worker at a high school in Long Island, I witnessed the struggles faced by teenagers, including addiction, anxiety, and depression. This compelled me to find ways to support their wellbeing. In search of a scalable solution to address the array of mental health issues teens experience, I decided to integrate the principles of yoga and mindfulness into the social and emotional learning (SEL) work I was doing in the classroom, using an approach that was secular, non-religious, non-controversial, pragmatic, and suitable for all school settings.

During a summer break on a trip to Tibet, a group of us volunteered with children in an orphanage and monastery. It was during this experience that a profound realization struck me. Despite enduring severe hardships, these Tibetan children appeared happier than the students I worked with on Long Island. The key factor was that these children practiced meditation multiple times a day, every single day.

Upon my return, I was inspired and assembled a team of educators who helped me pilot an eightweek mindfulness program at an elementary school. On the final day, we had the incredible sight of 500 children meditating quietly in a field, singing songs, sharing mindful artwork, and exchanging heartfelt hugs. This transformative experience was affectionately referred to by teachers as “Baby Woodstock.”

It was this pivotal moment that gave birth to Mission Be. Since 2013, we have expanded our Mission Be program to 28 states and 11 nations. In the 2022-23 academic year, we were present in 40 schools in Nassau and Suffolk County, receiving incredibly positive feedback from public, private, and Catholic schools. Today, social and emotional learning (SEL) is a mandated part of the school curriculum in New York State, and our program aligns with the NYS Standards for SEL, mental health, and anti-bullying. Our curriculum covers a wide range of lessons, including understanding the neuroscience of stress, the importance of a digital detox, exploring nature outdoors, mindful movement, fostering positive thinking, and cultivating gratitude, among others. Mission Be continues to shine as an authentic, effective, and enjoyable SEL and mindfulness program on Long Island and beyond.

Together, let us nurture the minds and hearts of our students, empowering them to thrive in a world that greatly needs their compassion and resilience. If you are a parent, teacher, or school administrator, please feel free to contact Carin Winter, CEO at carin@missionbe. org, to learn more about how to bring mindfulness to your school. Mission Be is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.

– A D V E R T O R I A L –

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