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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teaching kindness

Prekindergarten students observe their stuffed “belly buddies” as they rise and fall with their breath. Photo: Jeenah Moon/New York Times

Feelings are part of the curriculum for young children in some New York City schools, reports Richard Schiffman in the New York Times.

“Can you look inside yourself and tell me what you’re feeling?” Danielle Mahoney-Kertes asked a class of prekindergarten students at P.S. 212 in Queens recently. “Happy,” one girl offered. “Sick,” said another. A boy in a blue T-shirt gave a shy thumbs down. “That happens too,” Ms. Mahoney-Kertes, a literacy coach, reassured him.

The school uses the Kindness Curriculum, collection of games, songs and stories developed by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, writes Schiffman. The theory is that children who are in touch with their own emotions will be more empathetic to others.

“Our world is kind of a scary place,” Ms. Mahoney-Kertes said. “We can’t always control what is happening outside us. But what we’re teaching them is that they can control how they respond.”

Sesame Street is promoting kindness, reports Schiffman. “For example, Big Bird’s friends help him conquer his stage fright; Elmo patiently waits as Zoe learns to use his scooter.”

Don’t scare the children, writes Robert Pondiscio. “Perhaps early childhood teachers who view the world as awe-inspiring and who are eager to share their optimism and excitement with students might be more beneficial than teaching coping skills.”

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