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!!
I caught up with two amazing educator friends, Rachel Willard from Landolt Elementary and Barbara Gruener, a retired counsellor in Friendswood, Texas. Rachel told me about the kindness club she'd recently started at her school while Barbara spoke about the "Secret Agents" kindness club she started at Friendswood Jr. High.
What was the inspiration behind starting a kindness club at your school?
Rachel: We wanted to be able to offer something for our younger children to be part of and to nurture a sense of belonging.
We then heard Houston Kraft speak to our district. He said, “being nice is reactive, being kind is proactive, you have to consciously do something about it.” We felt we could get the kids active with this, show them how easy it is, give them ideas of things they can do. Teach them, light a fire under them.
Barbara: Our sixth-grade Secret Agent's Kindness Club was started after two separate pairs of girls came to me as their school counsellor asking for my help to facilitate carrying out their Random Acts of Kindness. The one pair had the idea of putting uplifting messages on Post It Notes and stick them up all around the school; the other two started a collection of gently-used books so that they could donate them to children who’d lost their books as a result of the floods that Hurricane Harvey left in its wake. Mid-semester, I introduced the two pairs and so began their Secret Agent Kindness Club.
How was the idea received by students and staff?
Rachel: The response from the students was overwhelming. We opened it up to first and second grade. There are only two of us, so we thought 25 – 30 would be a good number of students for the club. We had about 65 sign up!
We could not turn anyone away from wanting to be kind, so we set up two sessions. Half of the students for the current nine weeks and the other half for the next nine weeks. We've now completed our first session.
We had several teachers come and offer to help us. They have really enjoyed it. The parents volunteered to send snacks each week and do a pizza party on the last day for the students.
The club has received some kindness back as well. A group of teachers sent a thank you note with a large bucket of candy to the kids for all they have been doing around the school. This was such a great lesson for them, to see that it does cause a ripple and keeps on going and can come back!
Barbara: The staff at both schools were opened to facilitating their efforts and eager to help. They were also so grateful to be on the receiving end of some of those kindnesses. The students are having a good time trying to figure out who is behind the random acts.
What has the club done so far and what do you have planned in the future?
Rachel: We always start off with a snack and a story. So many great ones out there about being kind. Then we head off to do something kind.
The students have written notes to the teachers, “Thank you, We love you, You rock, You are amazing, and so on…” We attached them to popcorn and let the students put it in the teacher’s boxes (they had so much fun going into the workroom and seeing the teacher’s mailboxes). The response from the teachers was amazing. They did not care that much about the popcorn, they kept talking about the notes! Such a simple thing made such an impact.
We gave the students sidewalk chalk and they wrote messages at the entrances of the school. My favorite was “You Matter”. Other’s wrote, “Be someone’s rainbow, Be kind, You are loved, Have a great day.” We gave them some suggestions before we started, they quickly added their own sweet messages.
They made placemats for the homeless shelters at Thanksgiving. They wrote beautiful messages on these as well. Much like the sidewalk. One student wrote, “I hope you find a home soon.” They had a great time doing this but then lit up when they saw the pictures of the people using them and smiling while holding them up.
They decorated bookmarks with the same messages, "Be Kind, you matter, you are loved, have a great day..." They then put them in random books in the library for others to find as they check out and read the books.
My favorite meeting was talking about empathy. We talked about all the different feelings that we all have and how we can have empathy for others. This was a big word for these littlies. They created a bracelet with a pipe cleaner and different beads. They chose a bead that they felt best represented each feeling for them and put them on their bracelet. This was the first time they did something that they took home (besides feeling great about being kind ).
Of course, we did the Kindness Club drink cart for the teachers. A big hit! We will do this again but are thinking it will be a snack cart. We will have water with different mixes to add and lots of snacks for the teachers to pick from.
We will repeat some of the things for the second group but plan on adding some new things as well. Our school has two Buddy Benches. These are not labeled or painted to show that is what they are for. We will be letting the kids paint them to bring new life to them and encourage them to be used for what they are intended for.
The kids are currently writing inspirational kindness messages on note cards and we plan on putting them on a large bulletin board down the hall.
We would like to start a kindness chain too. A paper chain with kindness acts written on each one. It will be great to see the chain grow throughout the year as kindness is given and recorded. We are thinking the cafeteria would be a great place to hang and watch it grow.
When the older kids are testing, we will be giving them a piece of candy with an inspirational message on it.
Barbara: Before leaving fifth grade, the four Secret Agents asked fourth-grade teachers to nominate students who could take over their efforts at the Intermediate once they’d gone on to the Junior High. It was at a beautiful luncheon on the last day of school when they passed the baton to the rising fifth graders who would take their place as Secret Agents of Kindness at Bales Intermediate. Then off to sixth grade they went, where they now meet weekly with the school counsellor there, planning their intentional acts of kindness. So far this year, they have recruited a few more Club Members, including some boys, so that their membership totals almost twenty.
They have put Smile Cards on teachers’ cars in the parking lot, put inspirational Post Its on the bathroom mirrors and on lockers in the hallways, put together a Hot Chocolate bar for the teachers at holiday time, and made cards of encouragement and empathy for the victims of the hurricane at a North Carolina school.
How has the club made a difference to individuals and the school culture?
Rachel: We are partnering with the student council, they are fifth-graders, to greet students as they come to school in the mornings. Two younger and two older will stand at the entrances and shake hands and say good morning to students as they arrive.
A fifth-grade class noticed the things we were doing and told their teacher they wanted to do something as well. They decided to buy a book for their book buddies. They meet twice a week with a first-grade class and pair up to read. The fifth graders each bought a book for their first-grade buddy and gave it to them for Christmas. We really think this kind of thing will continue to spread and grow.
Barbara: Anthony Douglas Williams once encouraged, “Do an act of kindness every day and your soul will be in constant bloom.” That’s the best way to describe what has happened to our climate when we cultivate a culture of kindness. It creates a win-win because the students involved in initiating the kind acts get the same happiness high that the students and staff who receive the kind acts get. It’s especially incredible for students to show kindness to their teachers, to uplift them, to express gratitude to them.
What tips can you give schools who want to start a kindness club?
- Kindness clubs take some planning and work. Be prepared to commit at least two or three teachers and include some older students to help. It takes time to plan (read a book and have a lesson about kindness) get materials together, the time we spend with the club, cleaning up after, making sure the kids get home.
- Start small with just a few year levels and see how many students sign up. We thought we would start with 30 but had 62 kids who wanted to be involved so had to break them up into two groups and each were allocated 9 weeks in the club.
- Get the PTA involved to help fund the items you'll need to purchase for your acts of kindness.
- Be prepared to be rewarded. The smiles we have and the hugs we share as the children are picked up gives us the boost we need to get ready for the next week. The kids always surprise us with their ideas and love for others. It is sooooo worth it!!
- Start small but be intentional. Empower the students by letting them take ownership of initiating the acts of kindness; encourage students to dream big to make their school better than they found it.
- As the adult supervisor, be the guide on the side. Invite community stakeholders to partner with you to support and enhance club efforts. You never know when you’ll get another volunteer to help out, by donating their time or supplies.
Compelling reasons to start your own kindness club
- Boosts confidence
Children who are shy or lack confidence are surrounded and encouraged by others with a common goal. When their kind actions are rewarded by happy faces their faith in themselves and their abilities is given a boost. This increase in confidence means they're more likely to be willing to try something else that may be out of their comfort zone.
- Improves concentration and academic outcomes
Being part of activities that make them feel good and enjoying a sense of belonging fills children with positive emotions. This boost in happiness allows them to concentrate on the task at hand as their focus is not on worrying thoughts. Fewer distractions can also lead to improved academic outcomes.
- Promotes inclusion
Clubs of any kind help people feel as if they're part of something but a kindness club helps kids to feel connected to their peers in a special way. Doing good produces feel-good hormones and helps them to bond as they work on projects to make other people happy.
- Reduces bullying
Kids want to be around people who treat them with kindness and respect, and know what it means to be a good friend. Kind children are well liked, have more friends, are more included, feel better about themselves and are therefore less likely to bully.
- Enhances feelings of safety
Children report that kindness clubs make them feel safe and welcome in a nurturing environment. They feel as if kids in the club "have their back" because they're all working towards the common goal of creating a positive school culture.
- Improved school attendance
Feeling welcome, safe and included means children want to come to school. They look forward to hanging out with other kind kids and feel proud and positive about their achievements.
- Kindness is contagious
Kind kids know that making others feel good also makes them happy which can turn them into amazing ambassadors for kindness on a mission to spread the feel-good bug.
Do you have a kindness club at your school? We'd love to hear how yours operates and the kind things your students do. Please email us and share your photos!
Your Kindness Clubs
South County Regional Library Kindness Club meets once a month. Set up by the public library who partners with a neighbouring school, the club has 20 grade 2-6 members.
"We started the club in April 2018. Each month we do a project to benefit the community and promote kindness. We have made cards for soldiers and firefighters, toys for animals at the Humane Society, friendship bracelets for the Children’s Hospital, Kindness Buttons to share, and more!"
- South County Regional Library Kindness Club, Estero, FL
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AUTHOR: Lisa Currie - Ripple Kindness Project
Lisa is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community and outreach program, and primary/elementary school curriculum. Passionate about improving well-being and reducing bullying, RIpple developed a whole school, evidence-based SEL, kindness and mindfulness curriculum to build character and emotional intelligence to nurture positive, happy and safe school communities.