We have just ended the week where schools and communities far and wide are acknowledging Anti-Bully Day or Pink Shirt Day. At Childgarden Preschool, the staff decided that given the young age of these kiddos, and considering this is for many, their first group experience, we would focus more on kindness, which is a regular discussion the children are becoming familiar with. The staff do however support the movement and wore their own Pink Shirts on Wednesday February 28th.
Inspired by an article we read teachers-powerful-lesson-on-the-effects-of-bullying--using-two-a , we had an idea for circle time. Ms. Sue held out two apples, similar in size and colour. And told this story...
"These two apples played together in the playground, they laughed and were the best of friends. One day some other apples started calling this apple names. “ Go away, you can't play here. Go find someone else to play with!” This Apple was so sad! These words had bruised her heart.
At this, the teacher asked the children to take a turn passing the Apple and say something very unkind to the Apple. For most children, they were very unsure that this was okay. If they did say something unkind such as, “go away, you can't play here,” they would lookup for assurance that they were not in trouble. A couple of children couldn't say anything unkind.
Then the teacher picked up the other Apple and said, “you're so nice, do you want to play with me?” Then we passed this Apple from child to child and asked them to say something very kind, such as, “you're my best friend, I love you, do you want to have a play date?”
Then, the teacher took a knife and sliced the Apple that had been called names in half. The children were shocked to see that the Apple had bruises inside! The teacher told the children that the unkind words and name calling had bruised the Apple’s heart and memory.
Then, the teacher took the knife and sliced the Apple that had kind words spoken to it, and the children were amazed to see no bruises.
We spoke about words hurting someone but not leaving a mark you can see. The teacher asked the children if words would leave a scratch on your skin or gushing blood. No! The children replied. The teacher explained that the damage is on the inside, leaving a bruise on your heart and memory. Remember that just because you don’t see a mark, unkind words will hurt someone very much on the inside.
Then we sang our Goodbye song, and dismissed the class. In the lobby, I asked one little boy to tell his Daddy about the apples in class, and he replied, “No! Uh-uh.” His response told me a lot about the power of the circle time activity. I’m pretty sure he was processing the impact that they had just experienced.
The next day at circle time, the teacher read a story called Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes.
At the start of the story I held a “perfect” piece of paper with a heart drawn on it. We imagine the paper is Chrysanthemum. As the kids at school call her names, the teacher crunches the paper, as she “wilts” each time, until the paper is a ball. When the kids begin to say kind things to Chrysanthemum, the paper begins to open up until it is flat again, by the happy ending. But… the children notice the paper has wrinkles in it, and is no longer smooth and “perfect”. The teacher asked the children to each take a turn and say something kind to Chrysanthemum and try to smooth the wrinkles. “I love you Chrysanthemum. Do you want to have a play date Chrysanthemum? etc. until all the children had a turn. But they noticed, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t remove the marks.
The teacher told the children that unkind words leave a mark in your heart and your memory, and even if you show you are sorry, the mark will remain.
For us at Childgarden, these ‘lessons’, are a way to engage our preschoolers with a powerful visual that we hope they carry with them. A powerful week that also impacted the teachers.
Now, we are thinking about the power of the visual experience and how to impact the children with the power of kindness. Our creative wheels are turning when we begin to think of hands on ways to demonstrate how kindness can spread.