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"Kindness Curriculum" Available For Teachers

William Graf/University of Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. - As children begin the school year, teachers may wonder how to integrate social and emotional learning in the classroom, along with reading, writing and math. That's one of the concepts behind the new Kindness Curriculum developed for teachers by the UW-Madison Center for Healthy Minds.

The curriculum helps preschool teachers encourage children to learn to deal with their emotions, and learn concepts such as kindness and forgiveness. Marianne Spoon, the Center's director of communications and marketing, says the preschool years are an important time for brain development. "We were curious how this might work and whether it would be an effective approach for teachers and for students, but we're also looking at it from a prevention-oriented perspective," Spoon explains. "So, how can we start out kids early in life to set them on a positive developmental trajectory?" Spoon says it's more effective to address these issues at the preschool level than to wait for emotional problems to develop later.

The Kindness Curriculum is a free download to teachers who sign up on the Center for Healthy Minds website. Spoon says it's part of the Center's larger initiative to help understand children's well being, and a number of studies are going on now. "One is more mindfulness, attention, emotion regulation, and the other is focused really on pro-social behaviors," Spoon explains. "So, how do you empathize and forgive, and be generous and kind to other people? Those are the types of scopes that we're really focusing on with these children."

According to Spoon, the Kindness Curriculum provides the tools to teach these concepts. "In very manageable ways for students to understand, but also things that they can take home with them," she states. "So, we have the ABC's - the attention, breath and body, and caring. These are three concepts that are heavily emphasized in the curriculum." Early findings show that children who participated in the curriculum improved on social and emotional measures, and also performed better on traditional academic measures.

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