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What if Schools Taught Kindness?

By Laura Pinger, Lisa Flook | February 1, 2016 | 7 CommentsLaura Pinger and Lisa Flook share their lessons from creating a “kindness curriculum” for young students

  

Walking to class one day, one of us (Laura) saw a young student crying and waiting for his mother to arrive—he had split his chin while playing. When Laura got to class, the other students were very upset and afraid for their friend, full of questions about what would happen to him. Laura decided to ask the class how they could help him.

“Caring practice!” exclaimed one of the children—and they all sat in a circle offering support and well wishes. The children immediately calmed and they continued with their lesson.

Young students make “peace wands” as part of the Center for Healthy Minds’ Kindness Curriculum.Image courtesy of the Center for Healthy Minds

This is what’s possible when kids learn to be kind at school.

Various mindfulness programs have been developed for adults, but we and our colleagues at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, wanted to develop a curriculum for kids. Every school teaches math and reading, but what about mindfulness and kindness?

We ended up bringing a 12-week curriculum to six schools in the Midwest. Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness. It’s just the beginning, but the initial results of our research, coauthored with Professor Richard Davidson and graduate research assistant Simon Goldberg, suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills.

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