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
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.
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.
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.
Character Matters by Dr. Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist and professor of education emeritus at the State University of New York at Cortland, is a must read for any school administrator that has a strong desire to create a character focused campus. There are more than 100 strategies for building school partnerships with parents, teaching academics and character at the same time, creating a character-based discipline program, preventing peer cruelty and promote kindness, and much more!
Please let us know your thoughts about the strategies in this book and what you’ve implemented in your classroom or on your campus in the comments below.
Kindness really does make a difference in our world. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge team is proud of this teen who is reaching out and doing what he can to spread kindness in his community. With a simple yet very helpful act of kindness, this teen made a difference for his neighbor. Thank you, Brett, for reminding us how easy it is to be kind!
We encourage you to share Brett's story with your students, and see what kind acts you can inspire in them!
Do you want to give ideas to your students on how to spread kindness in their neighborhoods, too?
Here are 5 easy ways to say thank you or just let people know that you care.
Do you have some other ways that you or your students spread kindness in your community? We want to hear from you! Share them with us by commenting on this blog post or by sharing on our social media channels Facebook and Twitter.
Becoming a change agent in the world isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if you are a young child. The Founding Fathers of the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi are all great adult examples of change agents but what about kids? Can kids make an impact in their community and their world? Our video pick for this month answers this question.
Leah Nelson, a 10-year-old girl, is challenging others to pass on kindness in her West Sacramento community. Watch the video and be inspired!
Kindness on Campus
Sign up for our Kindness eNewsletter!
Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.