Do you see students at your school sitting alone or having a hard time making friends? For many students, navigating the schoolyard at break or finding a lunch buddy can be challenging and overwhelming. Sitting by oneself is a lonely experience. In some cases, students who are by themselves become targets for bullying. Feeling socially isolated can also cause poor academic performance. What does your school do to encourage students to engage with others outside their groups or who may be feeling alone and ostracized? We have a few ideas below to help your students find a welcoming place at school.
For older students, a new app called Sit With Us helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit for lunch or hang out find a welcoming group. The app allows students to designate themselves as “ambassadors,” thereby inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, which signal to anyone seeking company that they’re invited to join the ambassadors’ table. Sit with Us is a mobile app that is designed to create a kinder more inclusive school community. It was designed by 16-year Natalie Hampton after she experienced bullying and loneliness during her seventh-grade year. Hampton told Audie Cornish on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that the reason why she felt an app like this was necessary is because it prevents kids from being publicly rejected and being considered social outcasts by their peers. She is definitely on to something - recent studies conducted by Princeton, Rutgers and Yale University show that when students, especially the “cool kids,” stand up to bullying it has a significant impact. During a 2012-2013 school year, over 50 New Jersey middle schools provided their most socially competent students with social media tools and encouragement to combat bullying, and saw a reduction in student conflict reports by 30 percent.
We think Natalie's app is a great idea, especially for middle and high school students. For those schools where phones aren't allowed or whose students are too young to bring them to school, here are a few other ideas to give kids a chance to feel included:
Teaching children the difference between tattling and telling can help a child more than you realize. A child who tattles can often have a harder time making lasting connections with other children around them. Tattlers can be wearing on adults, too. It can be difficult to have patience for a child who is continuously seeking attention by tattling.
That being said, it is equally important for children to understand the difference between telling and tattling. Children who do not want to be identified as tattlers may not tell an adult about a situation when they should. This can be a detriment and can cause issues to arise later.
Here is a simple activity that you can do with your class, at the dinner table, even while driving in the car:
Step 1: Print out the Telling vs. Tattling poster.
Step 2: Starting with you - tell a story where a person is tattling or telling.
Step 3: Ask, “Am I tattling or telling?” You can have your students refer to the Telling vs. Tattling poster.
Step 4: Ask the students to come up with their own stories and present them to the class. Encourage them to ask the question, “Am I tattling or telling?”
For ideas on stories you can check out these additional resources:
Let us know what you are doing to help your children with understanding the difference between tattling and telling. Leave a comment or send us a message.
We've designed our program to be extremely cost effective and budget friendly! The 21 Day Kindness Challenge School Program costs just about $1/student. Our goal is to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to as many schools that want it. Here are some different ways schools have paid for the program:
We believe that giving students the opportunity to raise money for the program provides them with invaluable leadership and career skills. It can also be a bonding experience for students who may be having trouble fitting in or finding friends. Some student leadership groups have raised money by hosting bake sales, rummage sales, runs/walks and other small fundraising activities.
Many school districts have special funds set aside for anti-bullying or wellness campaigns. Check with your district office to see if this is an option for your school.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge is also a great opportunity to reach out to local community organizations like your rotary club, 4-H, chamber of commerce, Lions Club, etc. for support. Many groups are looking for ways to make an impact for their local students and will provide small grants to your school.
Parent groups are also an excellent resource. You may want to reach out to your parent group (PTA, Home & School Club, Parent Alliance) to see if they will fund the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. We have found that parents are very supportive of programs that will have a significant impact and that directly engage their children.
We are happy to help you! Please contact us, and we would be delighted to provide you with specific funding ideas to meet your school's needs. We have videos, flyers, email, and snail-mail templates, etc. that you can use for community groups and parents.
Literature is a powerful way to teach life lessons! This month we have six book suggestions by grade level that focus on friendship. We hope you and your students enjoy these books. We’d love to hear any additional book recommendations you have, you can send us an email or add a comment below.
For many schools, finding ways to connect students from different groups on campus is a big challenge. Kindness can help!
An act of kindness can be as easy as reaching out to get to know someone who is different from you -- saying hello and getting to know one another.
The first step is finding just one thing you have in common!
Research suggests that humans have a deeply rooted feeling to be kind and generous, but some obstacles can keep us from acting on those basic impulses. One of the biggest barriers to helping others is that of "group difference": we feel much less motivated to be kind or to help someone if they don’t seem to belong to our group —that is, if they’re not a member of our “in-group”—and we may even feel hostile toward members of an “out-group.”
The good news is that studies show that we can easily change who we consider to be part of our "in-group". So a great way to encourage kindness and develop friendships is to identify things you have in common with another person - even if similarities don't seem very obvious at first. For example, in one study, people were more likely to help a fallen jogger when the jogger was a fellow fan of the same soccer team than when the jogger was a fan of a rival team (as indicated by their shirt). But when participants were reminded of a shared identity with the fallen rival (being a soccer fan), they were more likely to help than they were to help a non-fan.
How can this information help you and your students at school? The exercise below from the Greater Good Science Center is designed to help expand students' sense of shared identity with others. This works really when you have different groups on campus that don't always socialize or mingle together. It will take just 15 minutes of your classroom time, but the impact for your school culture can be long lasting. You may even want to encourage your students to do this exercise with a different person at least once per week.
How It Works:
1. Think of a person in your life who seems to be very different from you in every way that you can imagine. They might have different interests, different religious or political beliefs, or different life experiences. They may even be someone with whom you have had a personal conflict, or who belongs to a group that has been in conflict with a group to which you belong.
2. Next, make a list of all of the things that you most likely share in common with this person. Perhaps you both go to the same school, have a class or two together, or live in the same neighborhood. Maybe you both have siblings or have parents who are divorced. Maybe you have had shared experiences, played a similar sport (or played some sport), seen the same movie, read the same book, shopped at the same grocery store. At the broadest level, you both belong to the human species, which means that you share 99.9% of your DNA!
3. Review this list of commonalities. How do they make you see this person in a new light? Instead of simply seeing this person as someone unfamiliar to you, or as a member of an out-group, now try to see this person as an individual, one whose tastes and experiences might overlap with yours in certain ways.
4. Repeat this exercise whenever you meet someone who initially seems different from you, with whom you have a conflict, or who makes you feel uncomfortable.
We would love to hear from you if you try this exercise with your students! Please reply to this post or on Facebook. We believe that kindness and friendship can bring people closer together. Thank you to the Greater Good Science Center for this wonderful activity that works to achieve that goal.
Help your child build the confidence he or she needs to create new friendship connections at school. The beginning of school is a great time for parents to talk with their children about how to build new friendships. Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, discusses four ways you can help your child create new friendships.
These four ways are outlined in the video:
Kindness on Campus
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.