Submitted by Sue Albert, Wicoff Extended Day Program (EDP) -- January 2001
West Windsor-Plainsboro Community Education, NJ USA
The Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge was inspired to honor the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by an organization called Do Something (www.dosomething.org). Students were asked to set a goal for the number of Acts of Kindness (helping others) and Acts of Justice (standing up for what's right) that they would perform in their Extended Day Program (EDP), school, home and community for two weeks following the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday (January 15, 2001). The purpose of the challenge was to make Dr. King's principles of kindness and justice part of a part of their daily lives and to keep his dream alive.
We, at the Wicoff EDP, set a goal of 250 acts. These were displayed on stars which were eagerly counted and recounted daily by the students. During the challenge, the "Up in the Air" Club (a club that involves constructing flying craft activities) constructed paper birds of peace with their dreams written on the wings of the doves. The colorful birds were added to a bulletin board which was filled with Kindness and Justice Challenge information and was displayed for the two week duration of the Challenge. We exceeded our goal with a total of 312 stars. The consensus at the end of the project, by the majority of children, was a resounding "It was FUN!"
Our challenge began on January 15th, 2001. It was a full day at EDP (normally an after school program). After listening to the story of Rosa Parks, who refused to sit at the back of a bus and was arrested as a result; children learned about the incident which inspired the Civil Rights Movement and was lead by Dr. King. After the story and discussion, we provided poster sized paper and children were broken up into groups in order to design posters which represented their dreams for a better world. The posters were displayed in the hallway, adjacent to the cafeteria which houses the Wicoff EDP program, for the duration of the Challenge.
After the kick-off, each day had a different theme. The EDP staff chose announcement time (after snack on the mats) to cover the themes in the curriculums. The curriculum usually took no longer than five minutes and it was always followed by discussion that the children would initiate around the theme of the day. I explained the definitions for each of the themes below and usually tied in a situation that I observed at EDP or about the Civil Rights Movement, read short stories, or told stories from my own peace education experiences with young people making a difference.
For a community service project, we chose to collaborate with the school on a collection for the Rescue Mission. We collected toiletries to go along with the clothing that the school collected. One of many highlights came for me when a student stopped me after the project to share that he discovered themes of kindness and justice in stories that his teacher was reading to his class. As a result, I designed a form for students to recommend books, movies or TV shows with these themes. Ironically, only two weeks later, his home was burned and most of his possessions were lost. Now, he and his family are learning about kindness in a much different way.
The daily themes were as follows:
Vision: the act or power of imagination; something that is seen or imagined. Vision is something we often share with others.
"I use my vision when I imagine making a positive change in my life or my community, and the steps I will need to make those changes happen."
Empowerment: the strength to imagine something positive and make it happen; educating oneself to gain the tools and skills needed to help make a vision become a reality. A person can practice empowerment around a certain issue or problem (equal rights for all, community change) or in a certain place (school, with friends, in the world).
"I am empowered when I undertake a goal of doing something I believe in, and I take the time to learn as much as I can that will help me reach that goal."
Courage: mental or moral strength to withstand difficulty, fear, or danger; the willingness to act on beliefs despite the challenges. It takes courage to start something new, to speak up for ourselves or for someone else, or to be strong when something makes us feel sad, tired, or scared.
"I show courage when I start something new like a class or project. I show courage when I express my beliefs, even if they are not the same as everyone elses."
Inclusion: including people from all different backgrounds and communities in our work or daily life; reaching out to others despite their differences. Inclusion means showing a genuine interest in reaching out to, and working with, other people.
"I am practicing inclusion when I ask a new student to join our group at lunch, or when I visit an elderly neighbor to show that I care. I am accepting of the people I reach out to, and do not limit who I connect with based on their background, ethnicity, or other characteristic."
Tolerance: being sensitive to different types of people and situations, even if they are different from what we are familiar with. When we are tolerant, we take the time to get to know others and try to see things from their perspective.
"I am tolerant when I am respectful and courteous to someone else, even if they are different from me. Tolerance means trying to understand them before making judgments about who they are."
Nonviolence: achieving results with words and actions, not physical force or violence directed at someone. Dr. King believed that "nonviolent resistance" was a method of standing up for what one believes without using violence. He viewed this method as being nonaggressive physically, but very aggressive spiritually. Having tolerance often affects whether we choose to act violently or nonviolently in a situation.
"I am nonviolent when I find alternate ways to handle my emotions instead of hitting someone or yelling, even if I am tempted to do so. I am nonviolent when I keep my cool even in difficult situations."
Respect: recognizing and honoring the rights and dignity of others, and acting in a way that shows them that we feel this way. Respect means being considerate, polite, well-mannered and courteous to others in our daily life.
"I show respect when I say "please" and "thank you" to others and address them appropriately (such as Mr. or Mrs.). I am respectful when I treat my friends, family, and strangers with dignity and kindness."
Open-mindedness: setting aside previous prejudices and opinions in order to learn and experience new things, meet new people, and adapt to new circumstances.
"I am open-minded when I agree to join a friend at an event I have never been to before, like an art gallery. I am open-minded when I ask a student I dont know to have lunch with me, or when I volunteer at a homeless shelter even though I may not feel comfortable at first. I am open-minded when I listen to those whose opinions are different than mine."
Responsibility: being dependable and doing what is expected; making good decisions and accepting the consequences of our actions. Responsibility means being held accountable to ourselves and others, and knowing that the decisions we make and actions we take will affect not only us, but also those around us.
"I am responsible when I come forward and admit that I broke something even if no one saw me. I am responsible when I think about all the possible outcomes for my actions, and how they will affect me and those around me."
Perseverance: continuing with something (an undertaking or thought) despite challenges or obstacles that may arise. Perseverance, or "follow-through," is the act of completing something we have started (such as a project) or a thought or idea (such as promising to remain strong during a tough situation in our life).
"I persevere when I finish studying for an exam or writing my essay, even though I am tired and would rather go outside and visit with my friends. I practice perseverance when I follow-through with something I agree to do, (even if I have promised it only to myself and no one else has heard) such as telling myself that I will not complain while I finish my homework, or visit with my grandparents."
Reflection: a thought, idea, or opinion formed as a result of something that has happened. A reflection can be private, or shared with others. Reflecting at the close of the Kindness & Justice Challenge provides an opportunity to think about and share experiences from the last two weeks, and to examine our own behavior and attitude. Sharing these thoughts also can help participants continue practicing the daily virtues even though the Challenge is over.
"I am reflective when I consider thoughts and actions I have had, and think about how they will affect my behavior and my thoughts in the future. I participate in reflection when I share those thoughts, and listen to the ideas and opinions of others."
Recognition: acknowledgment, special notice, or attention usually in the form of a "thank you" or "congratulations." As the Kindness & Justice Challenge comes to a close, it is important to recognize the accomplishments of those who participated. Recognition can be in the form of a celebration or ceremony, and can include those who participated, as well as the whole school and community.
"I recognize my peers and others when I make a special effort to thank them for their contributions and congratulate them for a job well done."
For more information about this and other engaging peace education projects, please contact Susan Albert at email@example.com