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What is Kindness?
Mira: It’s something that makes you feel good inside your heart and your body and it makes you feel so happy that you want to be kind back and the first people who felt this thought the word could be kindness.
Alina: Sometimes all happiness is about is being kind to each other and loving each other and making each other feel good.
Mia: There is more to it. It’s about helping too. If someone falls down, you come along and pick them up.
Mira: Kindness is also about… you have to be kind to plants too, you have to water them. It’s not just to people.
Alina: How do you write kindness again?
Nellie (teacher): I’ll write it up here in big letters for us.

In 2019 Princes Hill’s teachers observed that children in prep use construction as a means of understanding their world and communicating ideas. They posed the research questions: How do children construct knowledge and use it to understand their world? How can we as educators use children’s love of construction to enhance or deepen learning?

The teachers invited the children to share in the design of the learning spaces and to consider the materials and opportunities that would best support their further exploration of the concept of construction.

The children decided to put an ant-nest in the prep courtyard. They moved a rock to make space for the ant-nest and then set about beautifying the rest of the courtyard. They said that this was an act of kindness. We realised that we can construct kindness.

A small group of children approached the teachers requesting to meet with the principal to tell her about kindness. They sent an email to the principal.

Dear Esme,
We would like to have an appointment with you. We want to talk to you about kindness. We want to have a little talk to you about kindness because we are curious about what you know about kindness. We want to tell you what we know about kindness.
Mia, Owen, Annie, Huon, Esme, Mira, Alina, Ada, Meron, Kiko and Nellie

They decided to draw kindness pictures to take to their meeting with the principal.

Alina: What about we give the principal our drawings then she might put them up to explain what kindness is?

Mia: Maybe if people are being rude the principal can show them what kindness is all about with our pictures.

As the inquiry progressed the teachers noticed that the children were showing particular interest in three strands of construction: the construction of place, the construction of knowledge and the construction of kindness. The inquiry deepened with the creation of three separate pathways. The teachers observed and documented children’s interests and directions in construction and formed the Kindness, Stories and Place project groups. Each group was provoked and guided to inquire into these various ways of constructing. The project groups met once a week to discuss ideas and each child took part in a collaborative project decided by the group.

The Constructing Kindness group began to document kindness in the learning neighbourhood and research its meaning by asking their peers. Very early on the idea of gifting kindness emerged and continued to be the focus. The children decided to construct posters and postcards as a way of sharing kindness with the community.

The teachers continued to ignite children’s curiosities around construction during provocation times, through ongoing dialogue and through experiences beyond the school environment.

The children in the kindness group went to Rathdowne Village because they wanted to spread kindness in their community. They gave posters to people working in the shops.
When we were spreading kindness people were kind back to us. When they looked at the posters they felt good. They had lots of happy feelings because of the happy writing on the bottom of the posters. We wanted to spread kindness because it feels happy for us and other people. We put up nice little posters to make people feel much better.

The children decided that hearts were an expression of kindness. Parents ran sewing workshops with the children to make love hearts from felt.
Annie: My mum used to sew when she was little.
Ada: We could make a hundred hearts.
Hattie: We could share the hearts and make people happy.
Huon: They all need kindness.
Alina: How do we find out who needs them because we don’t just give them to everyone we see? We actually find people who are hurt.

We would also now like to spread kindness to people who are sick. We would like to do this at the Children’s Hospital.

A (heart surgeon) parent brought a sheep’s heart to school and dissected it so the children could learn about the heart and how it works.

The children reflected on their learning.

Huon: You can construct a lot. You can construct learning, you can construct painting, you can construct writing, you can construct friendships, you can construct building places, you can construct hearts.

Freyja: We were making kindness stories and there were lots of different kindness words and these are some of them- hug, giving, generosity, friends, friendship, love, brave and help.

In 2020 and 2021, schools across Victoria entered extended periods of remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Kindness Project of earlier times provoked a new learning journey.

Prep Blog: As we write this blog, we are a few days into our second round of remote learning. We recognise the importance of our collective resilience and unity in making the most of the situation. As teachers we value reflection as a tool for learning and have chosen to reflect upon our journey in and out of remote learning and to share our thoughts with you.
After discussions with children and exploration of their theories about the Coronavirus we noticed that an understanding of the need for kindness was evolving. During this time some of the children began to connect to pieces left behind by our 2019 prep’s inquiries into kindness. They were particularly taken by the images of hearts. We discussed the constant recurrence of the heart symbol on many of our children’s artefacts. We wondered why this symbol always popped up? Is this a way for children to communicate and understand feelings of love and kindness? We reflected back to the kindness project from 2019. We asked each other if we could use the traces from this project to begin to explore the possibilities of remote learning through these connections to kindness?
We began our adventure into online learning by making connections to kindness. This exploration then lead to further consideration of the heart symbol and subsequent investigation into the human heart. It was at this point that we tuned into the children’s curiosities and the potential power of honouring curiosity as a driver of learning. Theories began to emerge and we noticed many children co-creating meanings and understandings with their families.

Jack: The heart pumps blood around your body and spreads love and kindness. The brain is the symbol of thinking and the lips are the symbol of eating. The heart is the thing that spreads love.

Click here to see more of the Kindness Project.