Eugene 4-J, Bethel, and Springfield School Districts offer students opportunities to perform acts of kindness for fellow students, teachers, and family.
Kindness in Local Schools
Willamette High School English teacher Molly Schulze, has been conducting a classroom writing exercise involving kindness. Every two to three weeks, as a class warm up activity, Schulze asks her students to write positive or supportive notes to at least one other student in the class. Schulze then reviews the cards and drops them in individual student envelopes, decorated by the students, on the back wall of her classroom. If a student does not receive a note from any other student, Schulze writes one for them. Students read the notes privately during their next class. Schulz stated that as a result of this exercise, her students “seem to have opened up a little bit and let their guard down with me and with other students.” Students commented that the notes lift students up and make them happier.
Responding to a shortage of toys for this year’s annual Toys for Tots, students in the wood shop class created 100 wooden biplanes for the Marines to give away. The students came up with the idea to make the planes and donate them to Toys for Tots at the beginning of the school year. With a little help from their wood shop teacher Mike Stead, they were able to get project materials donated by Northwest Hardwoods, Jerry’s Home Improvement and Crosscut Hardwoods.
Briggs Middle School Kindness Project
Last year’s activities included the entire student body viewing “Wonder” followed by an assembly with speaker, Jay Bowman, a Thurston HS student who uses a wheel chair. Worked intensively with Carolyn Gonyea, a Marist high school student who wrote a curriculum to increase kindness. Many visual reminders to choose kindness are on walls and boards throughout the school. The WEB, a group of 8th graders who are committed to every student feeling connected, generated a list of next steps they may want to take to keep kindness momentum going. School wide morning announcements always end with “…and remember to Be Kind.”
Cascade Middle School
Cascade students mix it up at lunch to make new friends as part of Start With Hello Week.
December will be the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Several family members of the victims founded the Sandy Hook Promise, and one of its efforts is to end students’ social isolation in schools.
Leadership students at Cascade Middle School decided they should take part in Start With Hello Week, the organization’s project to reduce social isolation and reduce school violence. Each day of the week had special events promoting inclusion and kindness. One day featured Mix It Up at lunch. Another day included rewarding kids who committed random acts of kindness. It’s a Cascade student-led effort to reach out to all students and make them know that they belong and are noticed.
Agnes Stewart Middle School
Middle school is a time for lots of learning, whether it be lessons in the classroom or extra curricular activities, there’s a lot to take in. One Springfield school, however, is taking some extra time to focus on a particular life lesson.
Earlier this month, students and staff at Agnes Stewart Middle School celebrated “Be Nice Week,” which is a time for staff and students to take extra care to be nice to one another. Now, it’s an initiative that’s starting to grow beyond the walls of the middle school.
For the past two years, Village School has focused on ‘mindfulness’. Last year, to amplify acts of kindness, students wrote descriptions of kind acts they witnessed and hung them on a tree in the school courtyard. Future actions they are considering are: teaching a song about kindness to the whole school that could be woven into assemblies throughout the year. Involving the older students, perhaps using skits because the younger students look up to them.
Other Resources for Kindness in Schools
After being challenged by the mayor of Anaheim, California, students in the 24 Anaheim elementary schools completed one million acts of kindness with the goal of creating a safer and healthier city.
Roots of Empathy is an international, evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effects in reducing levels of bullying and aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program involves regular visits to the classroom by an infant and parent throughout the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings.
The idea behind Secret Kindness Agents is to change school culture by having students and teachers perform anonymous acts of kindness every day for a week. At the end of the week, they write reflections on how their kindness has affected them and those around them. They then select new acts of kindness for the next week and begin the process again, thereby spreading kindness throughout the school community. Research shows numerous positive effects on the students, teachers and school climate.
Evidence-Based Kindness Curriculum
Investigators brought a 12 week curriculum to schools in the Midwest to improve important mental skills that are key to learning including memory, flexible thinking and self-control, (i.e., executive function), managing emotions and behaviors and paying attention (i.e., self-regulation), and kindness. Children participated twice a week for 20 minutes in stories and activities focused on developing these skills and cultivating kindness. The students who participated in the Kindness Curriculum showed greater improvements in social competence and earned higher report card grades in domains of learning, health, and social-emotional development.
The Kindness in the Classroom® program was created to integrate intentional kindness skill building instruction with the development of social and emotional competencies. The lessons include the following 12 kindness concepts: assertiveness, caring, compassion, fairness, gratitude, helpfulness, integrity, perseverance, respect, responsibility, self-care and self-discipline. Teachers using the curriculum have reported feeling more connected to their students, seeing more kindness in their classrooms, halls and on the playgrounds, and noticing their students demonstrating more empathic, caring traits. The teachers also noted improved trust, fewer referrals to the office, more respect between students, and a generally more positive school and classroom culture.
The Great Kindness Challenge is a proactive and positive bullying prevention initiative that improves school climate and increases student engagement. The Great Kindness Challenge takes place during one week (the last week in January, annually) which is devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible on campus.
Teachers who have trouble with academic engagement and classroom management received training and implementation support for the following: 1) Specific positive interactions (i.e., greeting using the student’s name, handshake) with each student as they enter the classroom, and 2) providing both individual student and whole class proactive statements (i.e., reminding the students of the behaviors that will result in success prior to the students beginning classroom activities and including encouraging messages to specific students who had struggled with their behavior the previous day). The strategy increased academic engaged time and reduced disruptive behaviors. Also the teachers found the strategy be feasible, reasonable, and acceptable.
The Middle School Kindness Challenge is an easy way to make kindness commonplace and improve school climate and student learning in middle school. The Challenge includes 33 kindness activities for teachers and school staff to select from and teach over a four-week period of the school’s choosing. The activities, ranging from 5-minute to whole class period lessons, fall into four categories: 1) Developing Positive Mindsets, 2) Strengthening Peer Relationships, 3) Fostering Empathy, and 4) Promoting Cyber-Kindness. The Middle School Kindness Challenge offers an opportunity to improve school climate, reduce suspensions, and foster social and emotional development.