Every November, schools throughout Kentucky celebrate Kindness Across the Commonwealth, a week-long event started by KYSHAPE in 2020 to spread kindness throughout our state while promoting lessons and activities from SHAPE America’s health. moves. minds.® FUNdraiser. The week always aligns with World Kindness Day, which is held on November 13.
Each day of Kindness Across the Commonwealth week has a different theme based on health. moves. minds., such as teamwork, gratitude, kindness, wellness, and mindfulness. KYSHAPE provides daily slides with prompts, as well as activities and social media posts for each daily theme that administrators, health and physical educators, and other classroom teachers can use.
Participants are encouraged to post on social media with #kindnessacrossthecommonwealth to show all the amazing kindness that is being spread across Kentucky in our schools, businesses, and other organizations.
As a health and physical education teacher, I teach kindness as part of my curriculum. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about spreading kindness throughout your school — on World Kindness Day and year-round.
Teaching Kindness Makes a Difference in School Culture
For the last three years, we have used the health. moves. minds. FUNdraiser — and it has transformed my school community for the better. The shift in our school’s climate and culture was noticeable.
Students started greeting each other by name, which makes students feel more valued and part of a community. Students started showing more empathy toward each other and began to understand that everyone is going through something.
They started asking each other how they were feeling and having conversations around what they could do if they were feeling sad, worried or anxious. Students began thinking about what they could do to support each other.
It was amazing to watch these conversations start to happen and to see students supporting each other. Not only that, but the curriculum lessons I had taught my students started making an impact.
More teachers started utilizing mindfulness in their classrooms. Students started asking to do a Mindful Minute when they realized they needed it. I was teaching my students tools for their toolbox to manage their emotions in their everyday lives.
Parents started reaching out and saying thank you for teaching their students these skills, and students started going home and teaching their families what they learned at school.
The impact of health. moves. minds. and Kindness Across the Commonwealth has gone way beyond my gym and classroom and into my community. For Kindness week, parents started organizing different things in the community that our students could do, and teachers planned intentional lessons around our kindness themes. We have seen that every act of kindness can make a difference.
Spreading Kindness Can Be Fun
In my gym and school, I begin teaching the health. moves. minds. FUNdraiser lessons with each of my classes on World Kindness Day and throughout Kindness Across the Commonwealth week in November.
I teach these lessons every day leading up to my health. moves. minds.fundraising event in February, which is the Kindness Olympics. The week before our Kindness Olympics, I have a kickoff to introduce our event.
This allows families to go online and join our fundraising team. We do two weeks of raising funds and spreading kindness. My Kindness Olympics week is another week to put the emphasis on the importance of kindness in my school community.
Just like during the Kindness Across the Commonwealth week in November, our Kindness Olympics includes a spirit week where each day has a special theme. For example, on Thursday the theme is mindfulness, and we wear wacky socks to be mindful that we are all unique and we should embrace each other’s differences.
Along with spirit week, each student is given a Kindness Olympics bingo card that has 25 different acts of kindness. Students try to complete as many as possible and turn the card in at the end of the week. Our principal then does a drawing on Friday, and the winning student wins a prize donated from our community, such as roller-skating passes.
Final Thoughts on Spreading Kindness
Kindness should not only be taught and practiced during World Kindness Day or during a health. moves. minds event., but all year. It’s important that health and PE teachers take the lead on spreading kindness.
We already teach kindness, empathy, teamwork, and more in our lessons daily. These kindness events are wonderful places to start and let the kindness culture spread from there. Make sure you include families and the community in your events — and watch the kindness spread.
Please reach out to me if you want to learn more about our World Kindness Day event or Kindness Across the Commonwealth week.
Angela Stark is a health and physical education teacher in Kentucky. In 2018, while working at SCAPA at Bluegrass, a School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington, KY, she was named SHAPE America Southern District Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. She is the KYSHAPE health. moves. minds. co-coordinator and helps organize the statewide Kindness Across the Commonwealth week. She can be reached at Angela.email@example.com.