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!
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:
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.
Rewards for your campus...
Participating in the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, your school...
Bringing Kindness to Your Campus is as Easy as 1, 2, 3
Are you thinking about bringing the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to your school, but concerned that it might take too much time or effort? The 21 Day Kindness Challenge is easy to run and effective.
Easy Implementation & Continuous Support
The Kindness Challenge is simple to plan, easy to run, and makes a huge impact! Visit our website to see how you can make an impact at your school. We have something for everyone! We offer age appropriate programs for every educational level: elementary, middle, and high school programs, as well as our cost-effective classroom program.
Be the Change: Bring Kindness to Your Campus!
We have five book picks for the month of August!! We know school is about to get real for you all and so we wanted to equip you with some books that will surely aid you with your goals of creating a kinder, more inclusive campus.
We’ve chosen books for all grade levels from pre-k to high school. These books will allow you to open the dialogue about kindness. Please let us know what your students thought of these books. Happy Reading!
Whether a student is coming to your school for the first time or they are advancing to a new grade, it is important to help everyone start off on the right foot. The beginning of a new school year is a great time to start something new by encouraging community and create a culture of kindness by getting everyone involved.
Two fun DIY kindness projects that will surely engage your students, teachers and staff in creating a culture of friendship, kindness, and excitement.
The Buddy Bench
You may have heard about the buddy bench movement; Christian Buck is one of the pioneers for the buddy bench moment in the U.S. Bucks presented a TedTalk back in 2014 about being a new student and how it was hard for him to make friends. He was feeling lonely, and so Bucks found a solution. Thus, the Buddy Bench was created. You can read more about Bucks in this Washington Post article: Kids don’t have to be lonely at recess anymore thanks to this little boy and his ‘buddy bench’
Build it, Buy it or Deem it.
There are several ways to create a buddy bench on your campus. You can build one from the ground up, buy one or deem a current bench a buddy bench. Get creative and make it inviting for all!
Create a list of questions.
Wherever you decide to put your buddy bench, we suggest you offer tools to help students engage in conversation by creating a list of questions they can ask one another. You can laminate the questions and attach them to the buddy bench.
Here is a list of questions you can use:
- Who is your teacher?
- What are some of your favorite foods?
- What kinds of games or sports do you like to play?
- What is your favorite book?
- What book would you like to read?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Do you have a brother or sister?
- How many people are in your family?
- Do you have any animals at home?
- If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
- What do you like doing when you are not at school?
- If you are new our school, tell me about your other school.
- What is your favorite TV shows?
- What is your favorite video game or App?
Take a Seat & Make a Friend Ball Pit.
This kindness project would be perfect for middle school and high school campus’. Take a seat & make a friend ball pit is a fun way to get students talking to one another. SoulPancake Street Team mission was to encourage people of New York to make friends with a total stranger. Check out their YouTube video: Take a Seat, Make a Friend.
Build it, Buy it & Place it.
If you are (or know) a carpenter then you can build your Make a Friend ball pit. Otherwise, you can simply create the same effect by using a kiddie pool. We suggest you place your ‘make a friend ball pit’ in the quad or other prominent location that students, teachers, and staff walk through.
Create a few questions.
Write a few conversation starter questions on balloons or bigger bouncing balls to help break the ice. Encourage students, staff and teachers to join in the fun! Empower your student leadership group or student club members by asking them to be the first to start participating.
Here is a list of questions you can use:
- Find something you have in common.
- What teachers do you have this year?
- What freaks you out more heights or spiders?
- What are two things on your bucket list?
- If you could visit any country, which one would you visit?
- If you had a million dollars to give to any charity, which one would you give it to and why?
- What is your passion?
- Would you rather play a sport or create art?
- What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
- Who do you get along with more… your mom or dad?
- What would you say your best quality is?
Lay the foundation.
Create an environment of togetherness from day one. Breakdown the social cliques and encourage students to get to know others on campus. The more experiences people can create with others the stronger the connection.
Let us know.
Share with us which project you are going to do on your campus by commenting on this blog post or by sharing on our social media channels Facebook and Twitter.
Cruz Cares winner: 21 Day Kindness Challenge with 24 schools and 175,000 acts of kindness
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ >> The leaders of a venture to stop bullying, which in two years has generated 175,000 acts of kindness and reached 24 schools including some in Los Angeles and Baltimore, want to impact more schools and more students.
Their 21 Day Kindness Challenge won top honors from the judges in the 2016 Cruz Cares social entrepreneur contest, $2,000 and a package of business services.
Justina Bryant, 39, of Aptos, started an after-school kindness club at her child’s school, Rio del Mar Elementary after witnessing a taunting incident there. Wanting to reach all the students, she challenged the school to a 21 Day Kindness Challenge, asking students, faculty and staff to perform five acts of kindness daily. Bryant, who had worked as a teacher and in marketing, understood the time constraints in the classroom so she kept the explanation simple.
“It literally takes five minutes,” she said.
Yet the effort paid dividends. Students were motivated to be helpful and wrote down positive acts they saw. After a Sentinel reporter wrote about the kindness challenge, American Profile magazine wrote about it, prompting 542 inquiries.
Bryant teamed up with fellow parent Christy Tall, 44, who has experience in fundraising and marketing, to create a full-fledged program that is sold on their website, along with blue T-shirts, buttons and wristbands saying “Be Kind.”
“It’s designed to be plug-and-play,” said Tall.
The two looked into nonprofit status before opting to be a for-profit venture.
The basic cost for an average size elementary school of 650 students and 50 staff is $789. Options for smaller and larger schools are available, as are middle school options. A classroom option costing $100 was developed after teachers requested it, and a high school option is being developed with an emphasis on social media, based on Aptos High School’s experience.
To help schools launch the kindness challenge, there is an online training portal that includes email updates and customer support.
Though the 21 Day Kindness Challenge has reached schools in Silicon Valley such as Atherton High, and some as far as Utah, Ohio and Maryland, Bryant and Tall are proud to see all the schools in Aptos involved.
The kindness challenge is underway at Rio del Mar Elementary; Aptos Junior High started Monday. Bradley Elementary will start May 6. Valencia Elementary completed its challenge already and Mar Vista Elementary will do it in the fall.
Janneke Lang, founder of The Inspiring Enterprise and the Cruz Cares contest, considered the 2016 competition “a huge success,” bringing 220-plus people to the Del Mar Theatre Wednesday night and topping her $10,000 fundraising goal. She raised $16,000.
The top prizes for startups solving social or environmental problems all went to education ventures.
Santa Cruz Hive focusing on young adults exiting foster care got second place and Levered Learning producing online curriculum took third place.
Gail McNulty, 44, of Santa Cruz Hive, is tapping her experience in the Bronx as rookie teacher of ninth graders ranging in age from 13 to 21. The 21-year-old, a graffiti artist, respected her once he learned she had worked as an art director. Her goal, similar to Thread in Baltimore, is to connect struggling young people, one at a time, with a cluster of caring volunteers, such as college students, a community elder and a professional with expertise in the field the young person is passionate about. She expects all participants to benefit.
“You could meet that random person that might open that next door for you,” she said.
2016 CRUZ CARES WINNERS
1st: 21 Day Kindness Challenge
Founder: Justina Bryant
Prize: $2,000, business services
2nd: Santa Cruz HIVE
Founder: Gail McNulty
Prize: $1,500, business services
3rd: Levered Learning
Founder: Mitchell Slater
Prize: $1,000, business services
Footprint Inn: Founder Alicea Cock-Esteb, email@example.com
Assure Technologies: Founder Kara Kytle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Soliculture: Engineeering director Melissa Osborn, email@example.com
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.