In a small Connecticut school in Litchfield County, students in a multi-age K,1,2 class co-taught by teachers Robin Faust and Jen Worden engaged in a unit on civics and civility with a focus on getting along and building character. In the unit Kindness: Let’s Toss it Around Like Confetti, students engaged in lots of good talk both during and after the sharing of books that dealt with topics of conflict resolution, integrity, compassion, collaboration, perseverance and kindness. Students recognized that being kind and being the recipient of kindness makes one feel better. They decided to spread the gift of kindness throughout the school and town communities.
Students learned of the Kindness Rocks Project and decided that they could make kindness rocks, too. So, students created kindness rocks. As a community of learners, students created a message to explain their study and explained that they wanted to spread the gift of kindness and make the world a better place. Walking around town, students left rocks in paper bags on doorsteps with a note about their learning and this project. As a result of this act, students received letters in the mail from members of the community and townspeople posted messages on Facebook.
Within the school community, the second graders decided that they wanted to pass on kindness at the school. During a schoolwide community meeting, the students presented the task of being kind to one another, that they wanted to create a culture of kindness in the school. In mixed grade groups of K-8 students, each group created a poster with a message of kindness, and these were shared and are displayed around the school. The students also decided that kind acts should be recognized so they used the slogan, Kindness, Pass it On. The entire school took part in recognizing acts of kindness. Students wrote thank you notes in recognition of kind acts to one another and their teachers, and the staff also participated in writing notes for acts of kindness between adults and students. Notes of kindness were displayed on the bulletin board in the main hallway.
Children who still have ego-centric tendencies were giving more of themselves. They decided they wanted to continue to pass on the gift of kindness by sharing an activity of their choosing with the town’s senior citizens. As a class, students created a rubric of “must haves” for their activity. Their rubric focused on the speaking and listening Common Core State Standards. In small groups or partnerships, students prepared an activity or project to do with a senior friend, practiced their project and received feedback from one another on how to improve their activity or their delivery of the task they had planned for their senior friend by referencing their class created rubric. Activities planned ranged from performing a puppet show with song, putting together a puzzle, playing a board game or other kind of game, coloring a mural or doing an art craft.
With the support and help of the town’s social worker, senior citizens came to the school. Students and seniors shared a snack together and an activity. Students who were initially shy when rehearsing for their task, blossomed during this meeting of two very different generations. The students enjoyed learning about the life of their senior friend, and the seniors loved their time with the children. The event was overwhelmingly successful, and the seniors asked if the students could visit them this spring at the senior center. Students were all smiles both during and after their time with the seniors. They had fun with their new friends, but they also knew that they had given another gift of kindness to people who in some cases, live a rather lonely life. After having a chance to debrief about their task, students self-assessed their work on the class created rubric later in the day.
Because kindness rocks, the students are not done spreading the gift of kindness. We’ll just have to wait and see what other ideas for spreading kindness the students come up with during the second half of the school year.