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Kinder, Gentler Schools

A foundation in Denver has one purpose and one alone: to show people how to make the world a kinder place. And schoolchildren are spreading its gospel faster than just about anyone.

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Get free resources, including a teacher's guide (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader and free registration), from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has enlisted more than 800,000 students and 40,000 teachers in a variety of projects from the simple to the complex. Any teacher or administrator who wants to incorporate kindness into a classroom or school can obtain a thick packet of ideas and materials from the 6-year-old philanthropy, free of charge.

"Kindness is the foundational value on which all the character traits are built, so it can serve as a great unifying approach to a character education curriculum," said Molly Stuart, the president of the foundation, which is financed entirely by one anonymous benefactor. "It's also a concept that can easily be integrated into all parts of a school curriculum. We've had home economics classes take cookies to firefighters."

The foundation hopes to spread the idea during its seventh annual Random Acts of Kindness Week, Nov. 11-17. Among the materials it will supply for schools are a teacher's guide with suggestions about how to incorporate kindness into all subjects and lists of project ideas tailored by age group.

A few years ago, Patrick Gribbin's 6th grade class at Kelly Elementary School in Wilkinsburg, Pa., undertook an extensive tribute project, in which class members visited, lunched with, and interviewed residents at a local retirement home. The students wrote biographies of the home's residents, displayed those stories in poster form at the school, and, with the help of a local university student, transformed them into a play performed for the senior citizens, Mr. Gribbin said.

"What you see in these kids is that they start to internalize the acts of kindness they perform," he said. "As they spent time with these seniors, you'd see a hand on someone's arm, a door opened."

Sherry Hatcher, who teaches math at Meridian High School in Meridian, Miss., said her class used geometry to design symmetrical valentines for residents of a nursing home. She said that since she began overseeing the incorporation of kind acts into school studies four years ago, not only has the climate of her school become more peaceful, but she herself has been enriched as a teacher.

"I am blessed every day by the stories of kindness that students bring to me," Ms. Hatcher said.

—Catherine Gewertz [email protected]

Vol. 21, Issue 8, Page 18

Published in Print: October 24, 2001, as Philanthropy

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