San Francisco public schools add mindfulness meditation to curriculum

Susi Brennnan instructs first graders at Daniel Webster Elementary School in mindfulness meditation on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.
Susi Brennnan instructs first graders at Daniel Webster Elementary School in mindfulness meditation on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Photo credit Alice Wertz/KCBS Radio

The San Francisco Unified School District has introduced mindfulness meditation as part of its curriculum this year.

Susi Brennan instructed first graders on Wednesday at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Potrero Hill. Mindfulness focuses on slow and deliberate breathing, and Brennan's students sat on the floor as they listened to her calming voice.

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Susi Brennnan instructs first graders at Daniel Webster Elementary School in mindfulness meditation on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.
Susi Brennnan instructs first graders at Daniel Webster Elementary School in mindfulness meditation on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Photo credit Alice Wertz/KCBS Radio

"When we’re focusing on our breath, we can use it as an anchor," Brennan told the students. "So if our mind starts to wander away, we just gently bring it right back and notice our breathing."

Over 57,000 students attend school in the district, and each of them will learn about mindfulness this year. The district said it introduced the technique into every grades’ curriculum for the 2021-22 school year.

Dr. Vincent Matthews, the district’s superintendent, joined in on Wednesday’s lesson. He took deep breaths alongside a class of 6-year-olds, participating in a social and emotional learning technique Matthews said is focused on the whole student.

“(It’s) to make sure students know they’re welcomed and cared for,” Matthews said of the district-wide focus on mindfulness.

Dr. Vincent Matthews, Superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, waves to reporters at Daniel Webster Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.
Dr. Vincent Matthews, Superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, waves to reporters at Daniel Webster Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Photo credit Alice Wertz/KCBS Radio

Brennan said teachers and staff also benefit from this calming technique.