Bullying, meanness, violence and intolerance plague schools nationwide. Regardless of geography or demographics, students from all walks of life live this reality every day. Children are growing up in a time when teaching the values of kindness and tolerance couldn't be more important. In the same way that our schools focus on teaching core subjects like math and English, social and emotional learning also should be a key feature of students’ education. With this in mind, Stand for Children created the Middle School Kindness Challenge (MSKC) and set out to help improve school climate and foster kindness.
The goal of the challenge is to make kindness commonplace in middle schools and improve school climate. By providing a no-cost, user-friendly platform for teachers to access easy-to-implement lessons, the MSKC lessons allow schools to intentionally teach and foster crucial life skills. The content on kindness-building comes from leading providers, including Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project, Facing History and Ourselves, inspirED, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California-Berkeley, and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The content is organized in four themes: developing positive mindsets, fostering empathy, strengthening peer relationships, and spreading cyber kindness.
During the first cycle of the MSKC, 654 schools in 47 states took part in the challenge. More than 5,000 educators taught kindness-building lessons as part of this program and were inspired by the commitment of their students to creating a more positive and supportive environment where all of their peers could thrive. Meghan Sharp, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Northwest Guilford Middle School in Greensboro, N.C., told us that the Middle School Kindness Challenge “set the tone and expectations for our school. Sometimes, as a classroom teacher, you only focus on your content. To see how easy it is to throw a little kindness activity into an everyday lesson makes you more aware of how a simple change can have a big impact.”
Sharp and her middle school colleagues were pleasantly surprised to see how hungry their students were for kindness-centered activities. She chalks this up to the program’s positive reinforcement. “Instead of ‘don’t do this,’ it’s ‘look at what we can do.’ When they’re given the opportunity, they are willing to go above and beyond and focus on the positive instead of the negative,” Sharp says.
Jermar Rountree, a teacher at Center City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., says that during the challenge, “the atmosphere of our school changed.” While, Anna Aperans, also a teacher at CCPCS, shared that “kids who demonstrated bullying behaviors were now getting acknowledged for doing an act of kindness, which allowed them to feel like, ‘hey, I can reinvent myself.’”
We invite you to hear the voices of CCPCS students and educators in this short video:
These are examples of just two schools that participated in the first cycle of the MSKC. The second cycle is now underway, and the momentum for kindness is huge.
You can learn more and register today at www.middleschoolkindnesschallenge.com or by setting up a 30-minute demonstration with MSKC outreach director Daniel O’Donnell ([email protected]). The last day to accept the challenge on behalf of your school is May 1, so join the movement and sign up today!