Having survived the horrific attack at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and been on the receiving end of enormous generosity afterward, 1st grade teacher Kaitlin Roig began thinking about ways to give back. In an essay in Good magazine, she explains feeling compelled to teach her students about—and give them a chance to express—kindness and empathy. One example of her approach:
I brought a large box a friend had mailed to my class and placed it in front of the room. "This box is filled with things for us to use during recess." I told my students. As I pulled out puzzles, games, coloring books, and markers their eyes grew wide.
I paused and asked, "Do you know why someone sent this to us?" Their hands shot up. "Because they wanted us to be happy." Or: "They wanted to be nice." Or: "They wanted us to have fun at recess," they replied.
You're all exactly right!" I told them. "Someone did this for us for all of those reasons. In life, when someone does something nice for you, you have to do something nice for someone else, and that is what we are going to do! We are going to find a class somewhere in the United States and we are going to make them feel the way we do right now: Happy."
The project spurred the idea for Classes 4 Classes Inc., the nonprofit Roig has since founded. She explains:
Students in one K-5 classroom give a gift that fulfills a need or educational objective to another K-5 class, anywhere in the country. The receiving classroom is able to accept their gift only after they've selected yet another classroom to give to, thus teaching children to "pay it 4ward."
It’s a bit like DonorsChoose, with classrooms being both donors and receivers. And with the added bonus of offering kids some social/emotional learning.
You can get involved with Classes 4 Classes here. More on Roig’s heroic actions to protect her students during the Sandy Hook shootings is available here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.