GP’s are now making community referrals for art activities, creative writing, Mindfulness, volunteering, group learning, and sports, etc., to facilitate wellbeing and recovery. ‘Social prescribing’ is becoming ever more important as we become increasingly aware of holistic approaches to wellbeing and embrace the idea of the ‘whole person’. Being conscious of our own physical and mental wellbeing over our lifetime requires self-awareness and a personal investment in our physical and mental health.

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Image of students hugging with caption students spread kindness to build character and reduce bullying

Bostian Elementary in North Carolina is a school that cares about building character and empowering students with kindness and empathy. I recently connected with 4th Grade Teacher, Donna Rymer about the great work the teachers are doing to make kindness the norm in their school.

Donna explained that they saw a problem in the world with a lack of kindness contributing to sadness, and saw a need to bring happiness and compassion back. They decided they needed to start in their school and launched their kindness initiative to encourage more empathy and ensure less anti-social behaviour. 

Their campaign was triggered by a conversation she had with a colleague who had been given a wristband by a kindness ambassador. They decided to invite Rebecca Sutton from The Kindness Revolution to speak to their grade 4 students. Once they heard her speak they were convinced that they needed to expand on her presentation and turn it into a full-blown PBL (Project Based Learning) to reach the whole school and community.

Donna was keen to share how staff and students have worked to promote kindness in the hopes that it will inspire other teachers to also start a kindness initiative at their school. 

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Literacy Pegs Easy DIY Teaching Resource Ripple Kindness Project

I stumbled upon this video for a clever DIY teaching resource that can be made and used by both teachers and parents to expand vocabulary and improve spelling and literacy in children. What I really love about it is that with the use of pegs, children are not only flexing their mind muscles but also building coordination and strengthening the fine muscles in their hands that are used for writing. 

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Experts advocate for teaching kindness and empathy in schools to reduce bullying. Why? Because kindness is the antithesis of bullying and empathy is the foundation of kindness.  

Being kind means that you consider the needs, feelings and concerns of others to ensure you act appropriately. Having empathy means you're able to put yourself in someone's shoes to understand their needs, feelings and concerns. 

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Images of trees made from paper with wording 34 Inspiration Kindness Trees building character in schools.

A Kindness Tree is a creative and beautiful way to encourage and acknowledge acts of kindness within a school. As a whole school project, it's a heartwarming way to help foster kind, supportive relationships amongst students and teachers. Watching the tree come to life as good deeds are added creates positive and uplifting feelings and behaviour, making it a highly effective way to build character and reduce bullying.

As you'll see by the examples below there are many variations, some big, some small, but each one beautiful and unique. There are no rules when it comes to creating your kindness tree. Use your imagination and encourage student involvement. For the tree itself, you can use paper, fabric, paint, crepe paper or real tree branches. Tree leaves upon which kind deeds are written can be made from paper or card in the shape of leaves, hearts or even hands.

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Image of a kindness tree and positive note in the playground. Tips to help you nurture a culture of kindness at your school.

We're so fortunate to have several kindness days and weeks throughout the year that help highlight the importance of teaching kindness in schools. While these days are amazing for prompting educators, kindness and giving are values that should be integrated into the culture of every school, every day!

To help you instill kindness as a natural and instinctive trait, we asked educators, who have very successfully made kindness the norm in their schools, to share their top tips.

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I'm so happy to see more schools adopting kindness as their overarching value for teaching character and fostering a peaceful school culture. I always say it's the foundation for all other values and something that should be taught in every home and school for optimum well-being and importantly, to prevent anti-social behaviour.

Recently, I've been fortunate to connect with several amazing ladies who have started Kindness Clubs! Yep, there are actually clubs dedicated to this good old fashioned value and they're doing a lot more than just teaching kids to be kind!!

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Book cover with a girl looking triumphant with her dog. The words reflections and video reading by the authors Rose and Hope McCallum.

Book Title:  The Watermelon Shield

Authors:  Rose and Hope McCallum

Illustrator:  mikemotz.com

For ages:  6-10 years (a good read for all ages)

Topics:  bullying, kindness, compassion, empathy, character development, juvenile self-help

Related learning areas:  social and emotional learning (SEL), well-being/self-confidence, communication/healthy boundaries

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Image of kindness advent calendars with a cartoon girl holding a flower and copy that says build character this Christmas with kindness advent calendars. Free printables for kids and adults!

Ho, ho, ho!! It's almost Christmas!!

Many of us are in denial that the festive season has arrived again SO SOON!! I'm pretty sure science hasn't proven it but I'm convinced that time goes faster the older we get! 

Though parents and teachers are usually pretty busy at the end of the year, it's actually a great time to get your kids involved in doing good. Encouraging kindness should, of course, be a year round endeavour because it's shown that after the fourth grade, positive perceptions of kindness decrease in children.  

Because we know you've got other things on your mind right now, we've put together a kindness advent calendar to help you nurture the positive values we all want our kids to adopt. 

The hard work has been done and all you have to do is inspire your kids to participate!

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Five children lying together on the ground with text next to image saying tracking student relationships to improve well-being and reduce bullying.

How important are relationships in education? 

Rita Pierson, in her classic TEDTalk, says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I thoroughly agree and I would like it mandated that every teacher watches her talk every year!

I want to expand her sentiment to include student to student relationships.

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Can kindness be taught? 

While researching for our school curriculum many years ago, I came across the work of Maurice J. Elias, a Professor of Psychology. His view about kindness being a teachable quality mirrors my own and like me, he's a huge advocate for teaching it in schools. 

Like me, he believes that children have an emotional response to kindness but that emotionally intelligent kids have a better understanding of the feelings they're experiencing. 

"Kindness depends also on possessing certain learnable skills, and these are included in most evidence-based efforts to promote children's social-emotional and character development."
- Maurice Elias

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Phrases like "random acts of kindness" and "pay it forward" have become popular terms in modern society. There are even special days dedicated to performing good deeds and organisations who specialise in altruism.

But why has kindness become so popular? Perhaps it's best explained by those who have identified a deficit in their lives that can only be filled by giving.

Science proves there are good reasons why so many of us can't get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions and explains why kindness is important with evidence of many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. But of great significance for schools, it's a powerful and free resource to reduce anti-social and bullying behaviour.

"Unlike previous generations, today's adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates leading adults to ask why."
Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak

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