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Teaching Students Ways to Spread Kindness One Bucket at a Time

It may be a simple activity for young scholars but one that can have a lasting impact. That’s why third-grade teacher Stephony Leuallen designed a bucket-filling activity to instill kindness and empathy in her students.

“Before school starts, I draw a blank, non-colored bucket with stars and hearts. Our goal for the first month of school is to fill our classroom bucket,” Leuallen, who teaches at Mountain View Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said. “Every time I see a bucket-filling action in the classroom, I color in a star or heart. That really keeps my kids on top of it, wanting to fill each other's buckets by filling our visual classroom bucket.”

Bucket with kind words.

Leuallen explained that you’re helping fill someone’s bucket when you have positive interactions with them, but you’re dipping into their bucket when you display negative words or actions.

“A lot of kids will help each other by picking up supplies, passing out papers, or just saying nice things,” shared Leuallen. “Words mean a lot. That's one of the biggest things I want my kids to get out of it.”

This activity helps Leuallen’s class see firsthand how their words and actions impact those around them. “We can refer back to our bucket throughout the year. When I see behavior happening in the classroom, I say ‘Are you being a filler or a dipper?’ If they say they’re being a bucket dipper, we fix it right away.”

Students in front of bucket.
 
While this activity is ideal for elementary school students, the concept can also be applied to older scholars. Kristen Sanders, a curriculum specialist with National Heritage Academies, shared some options. In middle school, discussions could focus on Moral Focus virtues like respect, wisdom, and integrity, and how they apply in various situations. High school students could take ownership of kindness initiatives in their school or community, learning to empathize and take action on their own. Activities like these help Mountain View outperform the surrounding schools in all subjects.
 
“As part of our ninth-grade curriculum, students create a 30-second public service announcement that targets something they see in their school or community,” Sanders explained. “It could be something as simple as picking up trash outside and being kind to our earth or an anti-bullying campaign. We don't want it to be something that's all teacher-parent-led. We know the impact really comes when they are motivated to do it themselves.” Both educators say these lessons extend far beyond the classroom. Leuallen noted, “A lot of kids help their parents with chores at home or people at the grocery store. I have one student who loves to take people's grocery carts back to the front of the store.”
 
Sanders stressed the importance of modeling kindness as parents and making it a part of everyday life. “As a family, we should establish clear expectations for how we treat others, both within and outside our family. Acts like paying for the person's coffee behind us at Starbucks or random acts of kindness should become second nature," she shared.
 
Both educators agree these lessons are the building blocks of a culture of kindness that will not only benefit the school but have a positive impact on the community.
 
Great job helping fill everyone’s buckets Stephony!

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About Mountain View Academy
Mountain View Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.

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