Little ones learn kindness and mindfulness

Thursday, December 21, 2017

WHBY CELC Interview

Transcribed and edited excerpt from an interview with Nanci Micke (Vice President of Marketing and Communications at United Way Fox Cities), Beth Haines (Professor of Psychology at Lawrence University), and Gayle Hardt (Board Member for the Community Early Learning Center) on WHBY's The Good Neighbor Show with Kathy Keene.

United Way Fox Cities has awarded an Innovative Grant in the amount of $92,165 to the Community Early Learning Center Fox Valley to implement the Kindness Curriculum, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Healthy Minds Innovations, at Bridges Child Enrichment Center, Head Start, and Even Start Family Literacy. Innovative Grants address an underlying cause of an identified community need, and are done in collaboration with other partners. We will be sharing more Innovative Grant stories in future blogs.

Beth: What we are going to implement is a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum in the preschool and 4k classrooms. This curriculum was developed by Dr. Richie Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds, associated with UW-Madison. It has been tested in a variety of ways, but one of the things that Dr. Davidson argues is that the best time to really teach these mindfulness and kindness skills that really change the way we approach stressful situations, is when children are very young.

Kathy: Their attention-span can’t be that long, so how do you interact with them?        
Beth: Yes, so the curriculum is 12-weeks, with two 20-30 minute lessons each week. It’s based on what they call the “A’s through G’s,” so teaching them to pay attention to their breath and body, caring skills, depending on other people, and identifying their own emotions and the emotions of others, so that they can be more compassionate and can express their own emotions. Teaching them forgiveness, because we all make mistakes and you want to be able to forgive others, and gratitude. Within each of those themes, there are special lessons, that are very specific to the 3-5 year old audience. For example, with breathing, they might lay down on their backs, put a little stuffed animal on their tummy, and watch the animal go up and down as they breathe. Then, they can teach those breathing skills to others and use them when they are stressed or feel an emotion that isn’t as positive.

Kathy: And, how do you teach them kindness?

Beth: Well, kindness is all a part of the “A though G” approach. One of the lessons, for example, is that they put a kindness garden in the room, so that every time somebody does an act of kindness, they put it up on the board and they remind each other that this is an act of kindness. And you can do kindness to yourself, as well as others, and then you watch how your friendships grow and the kindness garden grows. So, even though the lessons are just twice a week for 20-30 minutes, every time an act of kindness occurs, you plant it in the kindness garden and it’s a visual reminder, so it is all very hands-on for the kids.

Listen to the full interview on WHBY's The Good Neighbor Show with Kathy Keene. (Start time 40:18)