Can empathy be taught or is it genetically hard-wired? You may have heard people say; “You either have empathy, or you don’t," “Everyone is born with a certain amount of empathy,” “Girls have more empathy than boys.”
In Dr. Riess’ TEDx talk, she reveals her scientific findings that humans CAN develop greater empathy skills. As an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Riess has administered numerous studies using her E.M.P.A.T.H.Y. formula. Her formula has proven to increase empathy skills among those who use it.
Additionally, Daniel Coyle the author of “The Talent Code" states, a person can change his or her behavior and habits by growing myelin. You "grow" myelin by doing deep practice of a particular skill. Furthermore, in the book “Mindset,” Carol Dweck points out that if we develop a growth mindset, we can change the way we view and do things. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks if they have an open mindset.
It is important to continue to practice empathy skills with students of all ages, from pre-school to high school. We’ve put together a fun kindness activity to help you and your students improve your empathy skills.
Step 1: Open with a video
Show your students the age-appropriate video about empathy. We suggest you show the elementary video link to ALL grades K-12 before showing the age-appropriate video. Why? The elementary video is easy to understand.
Step 2: Read stories
Print off all three stories that we adapted from Character Education:
For younger grades, have a parent volunteer or teacher read the stories to the class. For older grades, ask for three student volunteers to read each story to the class. If your classroom has the capability, you could project the stories.
Step 3: Discuss the empathy formula
Write Dr. Riess' empathy formula on the board.
E = eye contact
M = movement
P = posture
A = affect or expressed emotions
T = tone of voice
H = hearing the whole person without judgment
Y = your response
You can do this discussion as a whole group or pair students into smaller groups. Discuss how the empathy formula is unfolding in each of the stories. Ask the students to come up with specific examples from each story. For instance, in the story "Puppies For Sale," the last line - “With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.”
Step 4: Brainstorm real issues
As a class brainstorm and write out a list of struggles that people might be going through; this can be a family pet that has just passed, a grandparent who is sick, a bad grade in class, someone who is struggling with a particular friendship, being stressed out about an exam, etc.
Step 5: Give a message of kindness
Ask your students (and yourself) to get out a piece of paper. Have them to write down a name of someone they know who has been struggling or maybe just needs a little kindness done for them. Invite your students to write a note or draw a picture for the person they wrote down. Then ask your students to give his or her message of kindness to that person as soon as it is possible.
Share your stories, pictures, and thoughts with us! #ichoose2bekind
You can bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to your school site next year! Simply share the 21 Day Kindness Kickstarter link (http://kck.st/2osw2tw) with your community members and ask them to dedicate the program to your school! Suggestions of people you can send the link to are, a group of local businesses in your area, parents, grandparents, caring community members, sports teams, chamber of commerce, 4-H Chapters, etc.
We want to help schools develop a safe school environment for today's youth. An environment that emphasizes respect for others, promotes responsible decisions, creates a positive atmosphere, develops empathy, strengthens the school community and increases positive behaviors.
The mission of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge is to empower youth to change their world with kindness. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge teaches today’s youth to be effective, caring and proactive leaders. Our vision is to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge program to 250 schools during the 2017-18 school year – reaching more than 175,000 students and inspiring more than 2.5 million Acts of Kindness!
Check it out & share our Kickstarter Campaign!
Hello, 21 Day Kindness Challenge Followers and anyone else reading this…
My life’s work is to empower today’s youth to change their world with kindness. I’ve developed a program for grades k-12 called the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. It has been a labor of love for over two years. The program helps school's get ahead of the bullying situation by learning about kindness. The program encourages everyone on campus to intentionally do 5 acts of kindness every day for 21 school days.
Back in 2014, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, about how our youth need our help. In the wake of local teens that had taken their lives, I challenged our community to do what they can to help our youth. I realized that I, too, needed to do something to help. Hence, I created the 21 Day Kindness Challenge.
Today, my heart is saddened yet again as I hear about a new "game" on the app Snapchat. A recent article talks about how young people are using Snapchat to make fun of other people. For those of you who do not know, Snapchat is an app that delivers a quick snapshot of messages - this message can be posted to your story or sent directly to a particular person. When a person posts to their "story" (page), the post stays for 24 hours. Anyone and everyone can see this post. Snapchat’s can also be sent to a person directly. In this case, the post disappears as soon as the person views it. A popular thing to do is to take a screenshot of the chat and re-post.
According to the article, two teens have taken their lives because of this so-called ‘game.' Rachaele Hambleton, a blogger of Part-time Working Mummy in Devon, U.K. commended her daughter for not playing along. Hambelton explains, the game, “consists of sending someone the letter 'X.' That person then sends you back a name of someone you all know... you then write the most horrific things you can think of about that person - about their weight, their appearance, their personality... the more horrid the comments, the better. It then gets posted anonymously, but publicly, upon Snapchat stories for everyone to see and share.”
I would like to challenge the 21 Day Kindness Challenge community to help put a STOP to this Snapchat “game” by spreading kindness via Snapchat. We have created our own "game" that promotes kindness. If you, your students, or kids are on Snapchat, please ask them to play along. See the image below on how to play:
Share this with as many people as you can. Together we can do great things!!
Founder & President of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, Inc.
My Snapchat Name: justinabryant7
We have been asking students and teachers who have participated in the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, what kindness means to them. Their answers are heartwarming, and a wonderful reminder of how teaching kindness really can change our world. Read on, and be inspired! #bringkindnesstoyourcampus
“It’s the most important part of being human. It makes people feel good" - Nate, 8th grade
"People being nice and helping others" - Riley, 6th grade
"Accepting people and caring for them no matter your differences" - Charlie, Kindness Coach
"Being nice and loving people" - Claire, Pre-K
"Being nice" - Mary, 2nd grade
"My Mom" - Simon, 8th grade
“Kindness means going out of your way to make others feel good, to do more for others than others do for you, and to make someone smile” - Trenten, 8th grade
"Doing kind things for one another" - Jackson, 5th grade
"It means being nice and respectful” - Nathan 3rd Grade
"Kindness means caring for other people, animals and the environment. It means considering how our actions and words affect others and being thoughtful and sensitive to their needs" - Rachel, High School Counselor
“Compassion and inclusion” - Chloe, 6th grade
“Generosity and inclusion” - Bret, 8th grade
"Kindness means safety and happiness" - Ellie, 5th grade
"It means respecting others" - Luke, 3rd grade
“Listening and being nice” - Clark, Pre-K
"Kindness is truly caring about someone's or something's well being" - Rosie, Special Ed Teacher
"Kindness should be our lives" - Siena, 4th grade
We want to know what kindness means to you. The 21st person to respond will receive a special kindness treat from us. Please reply below or send us an email.
It was the beginning of the school year, and Principal Denise Kelly was feeling frustrated. Despite hard work and positive efforts by her staff, her school – Sterling Elementary in Sterling, Alaska – was experiencing high levels of behavioral issues. Principal Kelly had more students in her office and had suspended more kids by October than in the entire previous school year. She wanted to break the negative cycle!
Mrs. Kelly reached out to the 21 Day Kindness Challenge with the hopes that the program would reignite her staff to feel kindness in themselves and to share the kindness with their students. She is extremely happy with the results.
“I saw changes in our students; I saw changes in our staff. When we talk about students and their difficult behaviors, we talk about how to lead them back to kindness with kindness! The focus on kindness has been infectious!”
Mrs. Kelly’s co-kindness coach is Katy McKinley. She was inspired to help with the Kindness Challenge because she has been teaching Growth Mindset in her classroom, and felt that the 21 Day Kindness Challenge is an excellent complement to the Growth Mindset. She was very excited about bringing additional positive change to their school.
Mrs. McKinley was very pleased with the impact the 21 Day Kindness Challenge has had on her classroom and Sterling Elementary. She says other teachers agreed that the 21 Day Kindness Challenge was much needed and served a necessary purpose in their classrooms.
“It is amazing how contagious kindness can be,” she said. “Students, staff, and community have been affected by our challenge!”
Mrs. Kelly concurred. “Our (kindness) chain was 931 feet and it equated to 6,571 acts of kindness!” she said. “But beyond that, we had a class who all on their own conducted their own kindness missions across the school and the world. We had a parent contact us and ask us to spread cheer with handwritten cards to the children at the hospital over Christmas to whom they provide gifts. We had numerous parents comment at how contagious our kindness challenge was!”
Sterling’s office referrals have already seen a decrease by nearly 70% since they held their 21 Day Kindness Challenge, said Mrs. Kelly.
“Students are helping each other more and are being more respectful to the adults.”
Mrs. Kelly says the best part about the 21 Day Kindness Challenge at Sterling Elementary School was watching students do kind things, tell her about the kind things they did and seeing them ask to help others “just because.” Mrs. McKinley agreed, saying that she also loved sharing the daily videos that are provided as part of the program and planning the kick off and celebration Kindness Challenge assemblies for the school, especially because they included lots of students and community members.
Sterling Elementary School really got into the spirit of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge with their kick off and celebration assemblies. They invited many guests to attend and participate. A former Sterling principal, a school board representative, their school district’s communications specialist, a community volunteer and their State Senator all made guest speeches! Their district superintendent and a former Sterling Elementary secretary helped the students celebrate at the end of their Kindness Challenge.
One of Mrs. Kelly’s favorite parts of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge was dressing up as the Kindness Queen, a role she took on during the kick-off assembly.
“For our second week, I decided that I should ensure that the students were still thinking about kindness after the weekend. So I put on my Kindness Queen costume – which is not necessarily 'Winter in Alaska' appropriate – and I went to bus duty, greeting all of the students and parents with a reminder to be kind!”
Mrs. Kelly says that anyone can and should do the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. “Any school can do it!” she says. “Focusing on kindness is easy! It is well worth the time and the energy.”
One of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge team’s favorite stories about Sterling Elementary was getting an email from an enthusiastic kindness coach from another school in California.
“I just heard the 21 Day Kindness Challenge on the Bobby Bones show!” she emailed to let us know. Sterling Elementary had received a super fun shout-out from the morning show hosts.
Listen to the shout-out on the Bobby Bones show here. The Sterling clip starts at 7:38.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge team applauds Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. McKinley for their dedication, creativity, passion, and enthusiasm for creating a kinder, more inclusive school climate. To find out how you can make a difference on your school campus, visit our website!
To spread kindness on campus, you must make it easy, fun, and intentional. This month’s Fun Kindness Project we suggest schools create a wall dedicated to kindness. This project can be led by a student group or by anyone with the passion for spreading kindness on your campus.
Here is what you do:
1: Find a location for your kindness wall.
Consider a wall (or walls) on your campus that students, faculty, and staff walk by often.
2: Decorate your kindness wall.
Have fun and be creative! Make the wall inviting and cheerful. You can use quotes, pictures, lights, or other materials you have on hand.
3: Print and Post.
Your students, staff and teachers will surely partake in spreading kindness on campus with these three printable kind act suggestions. Print as many copies as you like and post them all over campus.
Share Your Porject With Us.
We’d love to hear what you did for your kindness wall and how viral this kindness project was on your campus. You can leave a comment below, or you can post your pictures on Twitter or Facebook.
Watch our YouTube video on ways you can use our Decemeber 2016 Fun Kindness Project.
Are you looking for a unique holiday gift for your children’s teachers that will be greatly appreciated and create lasting impact? The 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition is the perfect holiday gift for all the teachers in your life!
Your gift of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition will provide your children’s teachers with 21 days of lessons, projects, activities and team meetings that teach kindness, compassion, appreciation and caring. It makes a wonderful gift for any K-6 classroom teacher, youth group, preschool teacher, home-school, or any small group-based learning environment.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition is a gift that will be remembered and appreciated for years to come, not only by your child's teacher but by the students for whom you will be creating lasting change. You will be gifting a four-week program that includes step-by-step weekly theme-based activities to emphasize kindness, caring, appreciation and gratitude. The program integrates seamlessly with existing curriculum so teachers won't have any extra work to do.
Give the gift of kindness today!
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition is extremely well-priced at $119 (includes shipping). The 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition includes a downloadable program guide, kindness bracelets, posters, kindness strips to record acts of kindness, daily videos, printable journals, and printable materials to make it easy and fun for the teacher to implement kindness in their classroom.
At your request, we will ship your gift of kindness directly to your children’s teachers. We will include a handwritten note informing them of your generous gift. Order today in time for the holidays!
“One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness; it usually comes back to you!”
In celebration of Giving Tuesday, the global day dedicated to giving back and creating positive change in the world, the 21 Day Kindness Challenge team reminds you that there are many ways to give. We encourage you to perform 5 acts of kindness today.
Here are 11 ideas to get you started:
Share your #givingtuesday acts of kindness on our Facebook page or on Twitter.
By ELIZABETH EARL | Peninsula Clarion
Beyond just gifts, hugs and kind words, the teachers and staff at Sterling Elementary School are hoping students will find many ways to be kind this November.
The school kicked off its 21-Day Kindness Challenge on Monday with a school-wide assembly headed up by the “Kindness Ambassadors,” students involved with organizing the event who explained how it would work.
Boiled down, it’s simple: Be kind. Often.
Students are challenged this month to perform five acts of kindness every day and write them down on slips of paper in their classrooms or the school office. Pretty much any selfless act can qualify, from handing a friend a pencil in class to sharing lunch with someone who doesn’t have one. At the end of the month, teachers and staff will chain together all the strips and hang them around the school, celebrating the students’ accomplishments with another assembly on Dec. 1.
The practicality is very real — the program was designed as a positive reinforcement effort to prevent bullying, reinforcing positive interactions, according to the program’s website. Designed by a California mother for her children’s school, about 27 schools nationwide have used it. It is similar to other kindness programs like the Great Kindness Challenge, Think Kindness or Random Acts of Kindness, but this is the first time this particular program has been used in Alaska, said Denise Kelly, Sterling Elementary School principal.
“We believe this is the first time this particular program has been used in Alaska,” she said.
The title is based on the old idea that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. It fits in with the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, an in-school program designed to help intervene with students at risk of behavior problems. The program has three tiers, the first of which is broad and is administered to the entire student population.
One current trend in PBIS is to use positive support on a schoolwide basis for cognitive goals — like kindness. Students in schools with school-wide positive behavioral support systems had fewer school suspensions than those without, and perceptions of safety improved in those schools, according to a 2015 post from the National Institute of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.
The discussions for the event started between four sixth-grade students and two teachers, evolving from there to include two students from each class as kindness ambassadors. Teachers were asked to pick two students they thought were the kindest to be the ambassadors.
The challenge provides the older kids with a chance to be role models for the younger ones, Kelly said.
“We’ve really been pushing for the sixth graders and the kindergarteners to interact more,” she said.
The program builds on one that Sterling Elementary School put in place in 2009 in which teachers awarded students colored pom-poms as tokens of good behavior. The balls were collected into communal jars in each classroom, and when the jars were filled, the classrooms would have celebrations. When the school’s communal jar was filled, the whole school would have a party. Sterling Elementary School was the first in the district to pick up the PBIS program, according to previous Clarion reporting.
At the kick-off assembly Oct. 31 — where princesses and pirates were intermixed with students in ordinary dress — the Kindness Ambassadors demonstrated simple acts other students could do. They presented flowers and offered kind words and hugs to those in attendance. Before leaving the assembly, Kelly sprinkled all the students with “kindness” confetti.
“I’ve got kindness in my hair,” one student said, shuffling his hands through his hair, as he walked back out into the hallway.
Even small ideas can make a big impact! We love this little food pantry idea based on little lending libraries. The little food pantry gives your community a place to leave food, clothing, and other supplies that people need. The concept is very simple - anyone can take or leave items in the pantry at any time. People who have created little food pantries report that diapers, peanut butter, rice, canned food and bread are the most needed items in their community.
What items would you stock your community’s little food pantry with? Where would you put it? How would you get the word out? We would love to hear from you, especially if you decide to build one in your community!
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.