Guest Post by Paula Ford @prford5, Kindergarten Teacher, Manuel De Vargas Elementary School, San Jose, CA
How can we be kind? The Driving Question for our kindergarten Project Based Learning (PBL) is a topic that should be prevalent in every classroom today. Building a positive social and emotional foundation in our learners is just as important as building their academic foundation.
A great PBL needs a hook to engage the children and inspire them to dig deeper and further their learning. The launch for this PBL was a guest speaker. Mary Growitz spoke to the children about #LiveLikeMolly. Molly was Mary’s goddaughter. Sadly, Molly was killed in a car accident. As a way to honor her memory, her parents began the #LiveLikeMolly initiative, encouraging random acts of kindness.
Mary talked to the kindergartners about what it means to be nice and helped them brainstorm some random acts of kindness they could do themselves: pick up trash, give a hug, buy a coffee/hot chocolate for somebody, and write a nice note.
The children were challenged to perform at least one random act of kindness in four different areas: classroom, school. family, and community. Upon completion of each act, they would share it with the class and then add their name with a picture of their act to our PBL wall.
Along the way, more questions were asked, and together we learned the answers.
- What is kind?
- Doing or giving something that would make another person happy
- Thinking about the other person’s wishes and needs, and acting on it.
- What is a random act of kindness?
- Doing something nice for somebody without expecting anything in return.
- How can we find out what people need or want?
- We have to be investigators and do some research
Random Acts of Kindness in the Community
The children used great creativity in their choices for random acts of kindness in the community.
Soichiro delivered donations and a nice note to the local animal shelter.
Devanshi performed a dance for people at a retirement home.
Siyona wrote a nice note for the garbage collectors.
Warren packed care bags for the homeless
Making it Public
The children decided to follow in Warren’s footsteps and work as a team to help the homeless in our community. We collected needed items and assembled blessing bags. We invited Rodney, from Home First, to collect the blessing bags and talk to us about the homeless people in our community and ways to help them. He collected the blessing bags and told us how they would be of help. He confirmed our research and told us the socks were the most important item. He then suggested that we could donate our unclaimed lost and found items to Home First, so that the children would have warm jackets for the winter. We thought this was a great idea.
Kindergartners fill blessing bags for the homeless (video):
Conclusion and Reflection
This PBL project helped the children learn about other people’s needs. They brainstormed different ways to spread kindness, and then acted on them. Through this process, they learned that though they may only be five years old, they still have the ability to make someone else’s life a little better. Their random acts of kindness did not stop with the PBL as the children were all inspired to continue to #LiveLikeMolly. This PBL’s message is one that I hope everyone can take to heart. If you look close enough, you will find that you have the ability to brighten anyone’s day. All it takes is a random act of kindness.
*Added note about Kindness
We recently talked about Martin Luther King Jr. in class. During our discussion, the children commented that he reminded them of our kindness PBL. I asked them to tell me more about that. The children said that he encouraged people to be kind, use kind words and not fight. I was thrilled to see them apply their learning to other things. This was after we concluded the kindness PBL, so it was nice to see that what they had learned had stuck with them.
Paula Ford, @prford5
Paula Ford graduated from University of California at Davis with a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic (BCLAD) multiple subject teaching credential, and has been teaching for over twenty years. She began my career in bilingual education, and then moved to teaching second language learners.
Paula taught kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and has been a resource teacher for grades transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. The majority of her career has been teaching low-socioeconomic English language learners. Currently, Paula is teaching kindergarten at Manuel De Vargas Elementary School, and she absolutely loves it.
Follow Paula on Twitter at @prford5
Other Posts and a Podcast Conversation with Paula Ford