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!
Last week we shared exciting news with you about our corporate partnership program, which pairs businesses with schools to implement the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. Since then we’ve had a few questions from Kindness Coaches on how to reach out to their local businesses for smaller sponsorships and financial help in order to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to their schools. Even though our program is extremely cost effective - the 21 Day Kindness Challenge costs about $1/student - we understand that budgets are very limited and in many cases already set for the school year. Some schools want to bring the program this spring and don’t want to wait until new budgets are passed to do so.
We have found that local businesses, small organizations (such as Lions clubs, Elks Clubs, Rotary Groups, Chamber of Commerces, etc.) and even parents and/or parent groups like your PTA are extremely interested in helping to pay for the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. It isn’t a difficult “ask” from them, but it is helpful to have tools in place to help! Remember, we are always here to help you brainstorm ideas, provide templates, and we can customize an estimate just for your school. Our goal is to spread kindness by bringing the Kindness Challenge to every school that wants to participate!
We have written this letter for our interested Kindness Coaches. We are pleased to share it with you as well! All you need to do is replace the information in ALL CAPS with your personal information. Everything else is ready to go for you! We recommend printing this on your school letterhead or including your school logo whenever possible.
Dear LOCAL FUNDER (this can be a local organization, business, parent group, etc):
OUR SCHOOL wants to participate in the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, a program that empowers students to change their world through kindness. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge encourages everyone on our campus to do 5 acts of kindness every day for 21 school days. The effect is contagious! Studies have shown that teaching kindness at school makes a difference for everyone with the following benefits:
We are writing to request your help in bringing the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to OUR SCHOOL. Although the program is very cost-efficient - it only costs about $1/student - we are seeking local support and funding. We respectfully ask for ($amount needed) from LOCAL FUNDER. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge provides all of the materials, curriculum, training and support that we need to run the program - all we need to do is see how many acts of kindness we can do in 21 days. We are up for the Challenge!
We would be happy to recognize your support by writing press releases to our local media, and listing your name on our school website. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge organization will also be happy to list you among their amazing Kindness Champions on their website. Most importantly, you will know that you are building a better community for all of us by creating a positive climate on our school campus. You can find out more information about the 21 Day Kindness Challenge programs at 21daykindnesschallenge.org.
Thank you in advance for your support. I look forward to hearing back from you! I can be reached at YOUR EMAIL HERE or by phone PHONE NUMBER.
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
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.
Nan Singleton has started a ripple effect of spreading kindness. In some way, shape or form she has passed kindness on to thousands of people in her community. Nan leads from the heart, is extremely humble by nature, and a giver of so many things. She is a kindness ambassador and she is out making a difference in her world!
After reading the article in American Profile Magazine, Nan Singleton, leader of the Sevier County 4-H Teen Council, contacted Justina Bryant, Founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, to see about bringing the Kindness Challenge to schools in Sevier County, Utah.
“I was so excited to have Nan contact me about bringing the Kindness Challenge to Utah. I knew from our first conversation that she was going to make a huge impact in her community,” says Justina Bryant.
Nan presented the 21 Day Kindness Challenge program to her 4-H teen leaders and asked them if they wanted to bring the Kindness Challenge to their school’s. The teen’s unanimously voted YES! A total of seven schools in Sevier County, UT participated in the 21 Day Kindness Challenge pilot program during the 2014-15 school year. Nan and her crew brought the Kindness Challenge to three high schools, two middle schools and two elementary schools.
Each of the 4-H teen leader’s led the Kindness Challenge on their school campus. After completing the 21 Day Kindness Challenge at their school sites, they wanted to continue to spread kindness in their community. With Nan’s assistance, a group of high school 4-H teens organized and led the Kindness Challenge at two of their local elementary schools.
“We were so excited to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to our area because 4-H’ers love to make a difference. A little kindness goes a long way! The teens were also excited to pass it on to younger schools,” says Nan.
Nan and her team of 4-H teens made a huge impact in their small community. We hope Nan’s story will inspire you to spread kindness in your community and on your school campus.
Here are some of the kindness activities that Nan and her 4-H teens did to spread kindness on the seven campus during the 21 Day Kindness Challenge:
These are just a few of the amazing things that were done in the name of kindness. Check out our store to see what program will fit your school's needs.
Inspiration. Creativity. Kindness. Does it seem unlikely that recycled Post-It Notes and a fashion show could be catalysts for these positive and powerful driving forces? In Santa Cruz, California, a very special sixth grader named Reese Martinez attended the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Night at a Santa Cruz Warriors basketball game and was inspired to do just that.
The night was intended to spread awareness of the benefits of kindness and how one simple act of kindness has the power to change the world. Reese wholeheartedly embraced the challenge when she took the initiative to recycle kindness in a very creative manner. It started in February 2015, when the Santa Cruz Warriors hosted the 21 Day Kindness Challenge event to promote their goal of spreading kindness to others.
Kindness that forever changed their lives...
I am often asked to speak to schools about the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. During my talks I show the students a few different videos of young people like themselves making a difference in their world. It is my hope to inspire them to be the change they want to see in (their) world. For the September Kindness News post I would like to share one of the videos with you all. This is a heart warming news clip about how a small act of kindness can change the lives of so many. (Enjoy - Justina)
Kindness on Campus
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.