March Elementary Invites Shanthi Project to Lead Schoolwide Pep Rally
When we introduce mindfulness programming to a new school, our initial, eager feeling is one of hope. We look forward to the connections we’ll make and the change we’ll affect—and we come to see proof of our methods everywhere, from the outcome data we collect to the firsthand relationships we make in the classroom. Sometimes, a truly special partnership brings our work even clearer into focus. Luckily for us, this describes our experience working with Francis A. March Elementary School in Easton, PA.
We first brought our Calm+Kind+Focused curriculum to March Elementary during the 2021-22 school year, and now we’re thrilled to be returning for 2023-24. This year, we’ll be working with every classroom, from K-5. Jo-Ann Devereaux, Shanthi Project’s School-Based Instructor for March, felt the excitement immediately upon returning.
“Walking back into March, after not being there for a year, felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket,” she said. "So many members of the faculty greeted me with a hug and said they can't wait to learn more about mindfulness. They have been practicing and see the benefits in their classrooms.”
In anticipation of our mindfulness sessions, March Elementary welcomed us with a bang. On October 28, the entire school assembled for a mindfulness-focused pep rally. With everyone gathered, our Director of Programs Sarah Dennehy introduced herself and re-introduced Jo-Ann, whom many of the students already knew. Together, Sarah and Jo-Ann led a few breaths and taught the audience how to sit mindfully. The auditorium talked about what mindfulness is, practiced mindful movement together, and ended with a final, intentional Shanthi breath. Students inhaled and exhaled deeply and mindfully while finger-tracing our signature Shanthi Project swirl. Watch below!
Prioritizing in-school mindfulness to this extent isn’t something we see everyday—and when we do, it feels like striking gold. Director of Programs Sarah explained how the administration at March is firmly dedicated to creating a mindful school community, saying, “The principal, Dan Gonzalez, and the school counselor, Alechia Wright, clearly see the benefits of mindfulness for children.”
Principal Gonzalez’s own testimony proves this point. “We’re excited to continue our partnership with Shanthi Project,” he told us. “We missed their presence for a while, but even while gone from the building, we saw students and staff utilizing many of the techniques and strategies taught by them. Our staff has truly embraced the learning, and as a result, they’ve added more strategies and effective practices into their skill set.”
Instructor Jo-Ann has noticed Principal Gonzalez’s investment in mindfulness firsthand. During her time at the school in 2021-22, she remembers him popping into classrooms and participating along with students and teachers: a level of dedication to our mission that makes Jo-Ann even more excited to head back. “March was my first assignment after retirement,” she said, “and I feel like I hit the retirement lottery working with the magnificent faculty! They embraced mindfulness, and everyone is so welcoming.”
Jo-Ann’s many memories from March highlight the powerful impact of Calm+Kind+Focused; its lessons serve the entire classroom, not just the kids. She told us,
“A teacher shared that she paused today and told the class she was feeling frustrated. The class suggested that they all take a mindful minute and coached her to take some deep breaths.”
“I am fortunate to live in the city I work in,” Jo-Ann continued. She remarks that students from March often spot her around the neighborhood, telling their parents, “this is the mindful lady!” She hears from the parents she meets that after participating in Calm+Kind+Focused, their kids have begun teaching the adults in their lives about mindful breathing, too.
When we hear stories and testimonials like these, we think about Connected Classrooms—Shanthi Project’s new initiative to move past mindful classrooms and create entire school communities centered around mindfulness. Our partnership with March Elementary shows how our work can move the needle in that direction. And while their pep rally exemplifies one small part of a larger picture, it serves as a model for what we can achieve with our other collaborations and programs.
With support from FA March Elementary’s students, staff, and teachers, as well as our own instructors, we’re thrilled to be doing exactly what this organization set out to do. Principal Gonzalez told us, “We are grateful that this partnership has led to a greater awareness around mindfulness,” and Shanthi Project’s Sarah agrees: “We love working with them!”