Present Moment Labs

How two Dallas organizations are bringing SEL to schools nationwide

by Allison Hatfield | December 16, 2019

In the fall of 2016, Dallas Yoga Center worked with the African American Success Initiative to share mindfulness techniques with third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in five Dallas ISD schools. Daniel Sunshine, who is director of the mindfulness program and co-owner at DYC, says teachers and administrators were surprised to see nearly 100 fifth graders sit in absolute silence to hear instructors talk about breathing and present-moment awareness and then give it a try.

Since then, Sunshine and his colleagues at DYC and publisher Present Moment Labs have worked tirelessly to bring mindfulness tools and trainings to thousands of students and their teachers in other ISDs as well as private schools in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Now the conversation is around social emotional learning,” Sunshine says, adding that mindfulness is the basis for SEL — Social and Emotional Learning.

But, what is SEL exactly? According to the Texas Education Agency, it’s “understanding and applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.” According to Sunshine, it’s “becoming aware of our own inner workings and being able to choose our actions” — and a life-altering pathway for students to form healthy connections with themselves and others.

SEL was mandated by law in Texas in June, after the state Legislature passed several bills related to enhancing school safety and expanding access to mental health resources in response to the May shootings at Santa Fe High School. Prior to that, however, Present Moment Labs had already developed its Mindfulness and SEL Cards for Schools, a deck of beautifully illustrated cards designed to empower teachers and students to incorporate mindfulness practices throughout their day. The cards and an accompanying guide for teachers have just been picked up by a leading educational publisher, Sunshine says, and they will soon be making their way into schools across the country.


What’s more, Present Moment Labs has partnered with Dallas-based nonprofit Metta Inc. to interpret the cards and manual for disabled students and their teachers — and to provide them to qualifying schools nationwide for free.

“This is pioneering,” Sunshine says.

And he’s on point with that comment. Dallas ISD will host its first-ever SEL Student Leadership Summit on December 20 at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. You can read more about SEL in Dallas ISD here.

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