Dr. Elizabeth O. Crawford and I met at the 2014 National Conference for Social Studies. I presented a session, Change the World: Local and Global Think-Care-Act Projects, and Dr. Crawford, an education professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington, attended my session. From our meeting arose our EA/UNCW Think-Care-Act Project Partnership.
Through the 2014-15 school year, my current and former sixth and seventh grade students at The Episcopal Academy “taught” Dr. Crawford’s senior pre-service education majors how to think about personal qualities and talents, identify passions for social change, and act to change the world for the better. Through Skype and shared project plans, my students and those of Dr. Crawford have inspired and encouraged each other to make a difference. We are delighted and proud to share the TCAP work of our students, and we will present jointly at NCSS in November 2015.
For Dr. Crawford’s students, the culminating piece of the Think-Care-Act Projects was to write a guest blog post about their projects. Below, and for the next few blog postings, you will read guest blogs from future teachers, with links for further research. This one, by Chelsey Scott, involves project(ing) kindness. Happy reading and thinking, caring, and acting!
Guest Post by Chelsey Scott
University of North Carolina Wilmington
University of North Carolina Wilmington
A Think, Care, Act Experience
Does size matter? Everyone is familiar with the age-old argument, and everyone has an opinion about it. What determines the validity of those opinions (and the appropriateness of this introduction) is simple: context. Size matters when I’m deciding what iPhone to buy next. Size matters when I’m ordering a coffee at Starbucks, especially if I only have $3.00 to spend. However, size doesn’t always matter. When I see a spider on the wall, I don’t adjust my screams based on how large it is. Jerry is just a little mouse, but he still got past most of Tom’s antics and came out victorious. What about when someone offers a passing smile or leaves flowers on your desk? When it comes to kindness, does size matter ?
While studying peace and conflict as a Social Studies concept, I wondered why something so inherently simple was made complicated. I decided to focus my Think-Care-Act Project on peace-building. I spent a few months researching kindness: what constitutes it, what are the causes and effects, how does it impact those involved? I found that there were endless studies corroborating the Greek proverb that kindness begets kindness. One particular study showed how people change or adapt their behavior based on what they observe others doing. The researchers observed that people gave more when they saw others doing so and showed more kindness when someone was kind to them (Fowler and Christakis, 2010).
There are and always have been civil unrest, war, violence, and hate to some degree. Peace is often thought of in a hopeful, but unrealistic manner. On the other hand, conflict is widely accepted as a part of life. While conflict may never be eradicated, peace should not be part of a dream; it should be a reality for all of humanity because people have an inherent right to feel content—at peace. I believe that this begins on an individual level. In the words of Martin Kornfeld, “If we all do one random act of kindness daily, we just might set the world in the right direction” (Kornfeld, n.d.).
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation & RAKtivism
Though not attributed to one person, the term ‘random act of kindness’ was popularized in recent years and has led to the establishment of various organizations. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a nonprofit with the mission of inspiring people in all walks of life to practice kindness and pass it along. The organization coined the term RAKtivism as part of their movement and recruits individuals, called RAKtivists, to submit a short application and become part of the change ("About the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation," 2015). They describe RAKtivists as, “the Foundation’s activists. RAKtivists believe that kindness can change the world and exemplify that in their day-to-day lives. The RAKtivist program recognizes these individuals and creates a community for kindness to flourish” (“What are RAKtivists - Frequently Asked Questions,” 2015). I just could not surpass the opportunity to call myself a RAKtivist (that’s basically a superhero name), so I applied.
Less than a week after submitting my application, I was congratulated by the RAK team and had my name added to the list of over 2000 others who want to spread happiness. I also had my picture and quote from my application added to their website, which I wish I had known before submitting a selfie from two years ago. Regardless, my mission had officially begun. So began my journey to live up to my new title - RAKtivists unite!
Being Aware of Opportunities to Commit RAKs
I should also mention that my goal to commit random acts of kindness had a few challenges. First, I had a budget of $0.00, so none of my kindnesses could involve buying or paying for anything. It is not that I didn’t want to spend any money. It’s that the $0.00 budget actually meant a $0.00 checking account balance because I’m a college student. The other challenge - I had no social media accounts (yes, really). My opportunity to commit RAKs counted on being aware of my surroundings at all times. I had to take advantage of any opportunity to be kind that I came across in my daily activities. It turned out, these opportunities were everywhere.
Fast forward a month or so, I now had a list of various kind acts that I had done. Though small, I hoped that they had a meaningful impact on others. Some examples of what I did (and what you can do, too!):
· take out a neighbor’s recycling or trash
· help an elderly person carry bags
· hold the door for someone
· give a word of encouragement or a random compliment
· share with someone (food, pens, things you don’t need, etc.)
This is just the beginning of an infinite list of ways to be kind to someone. Most of these require so little effort, yet make such an impact on those we are kind to. Speaking to an audience of educators, we all know the value of a little kindness. Establishing a peaceful environment gives everyone in the room a sense of security and encourages positive behavior.
Research Proves that Kindness begets Kindness
The RAK foundation teamed up with Spark Policy Institute to implement a school-based two-year pilot program. The evaluation showed that establishing a school-wide kindness initiative made noticeable changes in all areas of the school day. The pilot’s published research report includes multiple evidences to show this. On student impact: “Students and teachers identified improvements in classroom culture and more inclusive behavior” (Lawson, Moore, Portman-Marsh, & Lynn, 2013, p. 3). On academics: “Teachers linked RAK lessons with students’ increased confidence and positivity, which led to better academic performance” (Lawson, Moore, Portman-Marsh, & Lynn, 2013, p. 3). On school climate, a teacher noticed that: “Students have an awareness of kindness being global, not just in the classroom, but at home too” (Lawson, Moore, Portman-Marsh, & Lynn, 2013, p. 3).
So, let’s recap:
• Size might matter sometimes, but not when it comes to kindness. Even the smallest RAK makes a difference.
• Research proves that kindness begets kindness, so one person’s RAK can elicit hundreds more.
• Opportunities to be kind are always around us and RAK’s do not necessarily require money or resources.
• While everyone has a chance to make a difference, educators can make kindness an everyday part of students’ lives. Peace building can (and should) be integrated into all facets of the classroom; the best way for students to learn is through experience.
Imagine the global impact this could make if everyone got on board. As educators, future generations of citizens come through our classroom doors every day. We have the potential to impact students’ understanding of peace and show them what it means to be a part of change. Coming soon: world peace!
--by Chelsey Scott, 2015
--by Chelsey Scott, 2015
- RAK Lesson Plans: Contains a variety of lessons to teach and incorporate kindness into any K-12 classroom. There are also project ideas and other materials, all free of charge. Check out the rest of the website to read studies and research on kindness, get updates on their pilot program, and more! https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/lesson-plans-pilot-program
- National Peace Academy Lesson Plans: The National Peace Academy published a series of lessons for elementary teachers on understanding and promoting peace. There are eight complete, downloadable lesson plans, all based around the NPA's "5 Spheres of Peace" Framework. Each of the lessons contains objectives, leading questions, and a step-by-step activity guide. http://nationalpeaceacademy.us/edresources/study-guide/childrens-curriculum/
- Become a RAKtivist: Read about how to become a part of the RAKtivism movement, see who else is joining, and submit your own application! Students can apply as well. Joining will give you access to monthly newsletters with recommended RAKs based on holidays and events that other RAKtivists will be doing as well. The team encourages people to document their kindnesses to be shared on their blog. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/raktivists
- The Kind Campaign: This non-profit organization includes an international movement, documentary, and school-based program, all with a purpose of replacing bullying with kindness among students. Specifically geared towards girls, the organization offers various resources for teaching students what it means to be a kind peer, friend, and person. https://www.kindcampaign.com
- For more about how to do Think-Care-Act Projects with students, read Sue Cannon's blog: http://thinkcareact.blogspot.com/2014/11/change-world-local-global-think-care.html
About the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/about-us
Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2010). Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(10).
Lawson, A., Moore, R., Portman-Marsh, N., & Lynn, J. (2013). RAK School Based Pilot Implementation: Year Two Evaluation Report Executive Summary. Retrieved from Spark Policy Institue website: http://rak-materials.s3.amazonaws.com/reports/RAK_Final_EOY_Executive_Summary.docx
What are RAKtivists - Frequently Asked Questions. (2015). Retrieved from