Kindness Nation: That’s what I’m searching for right now, a nation where kindness is the norm and disagreement doesn’t need to foil into disparagement. I’ll be honest and say that this school year has been tougher than others beyond the normal daily stressors. The recent election has changed the climate of my school. My middle schoolers spend an inordinate amount of time talking divisively about politics.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that they would want to broaden their interest in civics. But the problem lies in the intersection of civics and cultural awareness. Their inability to maintain kindness, empathy, and compassion for people unlike themselves has been difficult to witness. As a result, some of the things that they’ve said have been downright…eye-opening. And in truth, it reminds me of things I heard growing up. Both the town I work in and the one I’m from are small coastal/bayshore towns with predominantly white, middle-class families. And both are devoid of cultural diversity. So I ‘get it’ because I’ve lived it, even though I don’t agree with it.
I try to remember that a lot of what they’re saying is regurgitated from other sources like tv, social media, friends, parents, and others in their community. But it can sometimes feel like those influences outweigh my ability as an art educator to strike a chord of respect for all people. I say this because of the limited amount of time I spend with them. It sometimes feels like a losing battle. I wanted to do something to counteract that feeling.
Kindness Nation Art Project
In thinking about a Kindness Nation, I reflected on how all people in our society come together to make a cohesive whole, like pieces of a puzzle joined to form a visual statement. Each plays a part in the fabric of a nation. Each brings with it a rich history of tradition, social norms, culture, language, religion, and a shared experience in history which shapes and informs their understanding of their world.
To that end, I decided to create an art project for other struggling elementary teachers that encompasses cultural diversity and inclusiveness. I wanted it to visually illustrate the concept of being pieces of a puzzle as one. This poster project aims to bring students together to create a unified statement about diversity in our classroom and the world at large.
Creating the Poster
To create it, simply print out the 4 poster pages and the roll-a-dice game included. Working in small groups, students take turns rolling a die to select a pattern for the sleeve cuff of each puzzle piece. Encourage your students to use multicultural crayons to fill in the hands.
I chose to color in my example using blue and green so that the center part feels symbolically like an Earth, showing how cultural diversity and inclusiveness should be inherent everywhere.
The Kindness Nation poster project could work for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade. I could see this project being a good unifying tool in your classroom if you have a handful of students of diverse background struggling to maintain cultural sensitivity. It would be a great pairing with Martin Luther King Jr. activities, too. If you’re wanting to do it with your entire class, consider breaking them up into groups of 2 and 4. Give each group the materials and watch them create it. Then once completed, march your students around the school hanging the posters. We could all use a little reminder that a Kindness Nation should exist everywhere.
Check out this forever freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Many other teacher-authors have created resources utilizing the Kindness Nation theme, too. You can find them by searching #kindnessnation.
And remember: Kindness has no expiration date, so spread some today!