New curriculum helps young people lead with kindness

New curriculum helps young people lead with kindness

Children are born with kindness and innocence, but then when they're exposed to the wider world, this tends to fade.

However, in this time of pronounced hardship and suffering, kindness is fast catching on as one of the most powerful traits that people can demonstrate to each other.

Inspired by kindness in a time when she needed saving, Kath Koschel, founder of the Kindness Factory, set out to create a generational change that sees young people lead with kindness.

Koschel said she has seen “an incredible surge” of kindness across the community and wanted to find ways to ensure this continues as a human fixture rather than a phase that ends when life goes back to normal.

Kindness improves quality of life

A growing body of research shows that the act of kindness has extensive physical, emotional and mental health benefits.

“Psychological research shows being kind and being a recipient of kindness positively influences a person’s sense of wellbeing,” Koschel told The Educator.

“Research has also proven acts of kindness for one another can help enhance satisfaction with your daily life, optimism and, in some cases, results in reduced anxiety”.

Koschel said that by helping to instil the genuine values of kindness from an early age, schools and communities can help young people reap the associated physical, emotional and mental health benefits.

And for schools, this is a powerful message, as education can offer a way to promote kindness-related acts to children, she says.

A Curriculum with kindness as its core

Along with Kaplan Australia, The Kindness Factory has co-developed a ‘Kindness Curriculum’ to help educators, parents and community groups access resources and activities to help teach children of all ages the values of kindness.

“People do not learn kindness by only thinking about it. It is best experienced by engaging in acts of kindness and exploring the associated attributes that support wellbeing,” Koschel explained.

“Essentially, we can likely only reproduce kindness if we have felt it! For that reason, it is essential for us to help students embrace kindness and gratitude at home and at school so that these values are reflected in each part of their lives, and they are able to pass on the values of kindness to others, also”.

The Kindness Curriculum developed, sourced and collated activities that teachers and schools can use to open up conversations with students and positively promote and practice kindness. The activities compliment the Australian Curriculum and teach students the 12 key attributes of kindness, including empathy, positivity, perspective, and humour, among others.

“Each attribute has a corresponding group activity of up to 40 minutes that’s suitable for early learning up to senior schooling groups,” Koschel said.

“For example, with empathy, children up to five years of age, use emotion cards and a video image to name that feeling, while children in the early years use the emotions cards to create a feelings collage”.

Koschel said The Kindness Curriculum “embraces and celebrates the skills and attributes that build a kinder world”.

“And we hope it doesn’t stop there! When children pass on their knowledge of kindness, they can help inspire their peers and family members to do the same, helping to build a momentum of kindness, for generations to come,” she said.

A first-of-its-kind partnership

Tania Aspland, Vice-President (Academic) of Kaplan Australia said that when the organisation became aware of Koschel and the mission of the Kindness Factory there was a “natural synergy” with Kaplan’s own values.

“Therefore, Kaplan has been very proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to Kath’s mission,” Aspland told The Educator.

“The partnership is the first of its kind in the Australian marketplace and has brought together Kaplan Australia’s academic and learning expertise to design a kindness focussed curriculum”.

Aspland said the Kindness Curriculum has included approximately 12 months of intense work.

“Our Kaplan academics have examined the research evidence and scoped the range of attributes that support people to be happy, confident, well-rounded individuals,” Aspland said.

“The first iteration of the Kindness Curriculum contains over 60 age appropriate learning activities that span each of the 12 scientifically proven drivers of kindness and are suitable for students at early learning stages up to year 12”.

She said the activities were designed to be implemented as standalone activities, as students explore, investigate and address specific problems that arise in the lives of young people.

“We wanted to ensure it was easy for educators, parents and community groups to use the resource, and have designed the Kindness Curriculum to compliment the Australian curriculum, so it can be easily integrated into daily teaching routines,” Aspland said.

“Further, the Kindness Curriculum comes complete with directions on how to implement each activity, including the expected time it takes to facilitate the activity and the age group for which the activity is most suitable, for example”.

An online resource with clear, direct steps

Aspland said school leaders can embed the curriculum’s resources into their school’s teaching and learning framework and use them for impact.

“Kaplan has been working with leaders for a very long time now and we respect the need for leaders to adapt the curriculum to be responsive to their specific school community,” Aspland said.

“The Kindness Curriculum was designed with such an approach in mind. While it is aligned to the national curriculum and meets the requirements of good planning, it also invites leaders and teachers to respond to local issues and integrate kindness activities in a way that is most meaningful to parents, students and the local community”.

Asplan said that as an online resource with clear, direct steps, the Kindness Curriculum allows teachers and educators from all around Australia to easily adapt the curriculum for their schools and children’s particular needs.

“The preferred pedagogy or teaching medium is that of the narrative or storytelling approach; a medium that is subjective, values-laden and context specific,” she said.

“It is through narrative that connections become explicit, meaning is derived, vulnerabilities are understood and addressed, and desirable actions forthcoming”.

The activities do not include assessment criteria but encourage reflection on personal and collaborative outcomes focussing on the attributes.

“Teachers can incorporate relevant assessment if they so desire – we have left that up to them,” Aspland said.

“Leaders have provided positive feedback to the designers of the curriculum because they see the Kindness Curriculum as being instructive in responding to school missions, building community and responding to contemporary stresses”.

She said the Curriculum also contributes to “the creation of resilient, caring and kind individuals who manage themselves, relate to others, resolve conflict, and feel positive about themselves and the world around them”.

“We acknowledge the current set of activities is not exhaustive and that teachers themselves will definitely have hundreds of other activities they’ve already facilitated with great success in the past,” Aspland said.

“We therefore encourage teachers (and parents) to submit any of their tried-and-tested kindness-based activities to us so we can add them as resources to the Kindness Curriculum’s website”.