GUEST BLOGGER SARAH LYNN SCHEERGER
What is altruism? How does it help us all?
Altruism is acting to help others or being concerned for the well-being of others. Often when people act in altruistic ways, they’re feeling empathy for others. We know that kindness helps others, but did you know that being altruistic can actually help YOU too? Altruism is the gift that keeps on giving.
Activity #1: Introduce the concept of altruism
A child-friendly definition of altruism is as follows: doing something kind, just because.
- Share about a time that you did something kind, just because. How did this make you feel?
- Share about a time when someone did something kind for you, just because. How did this make you feel?
- After someone did something kind for you, were you MORE or LESS likely to do something kind for a third person?
Most students will conclude that kindness breeds kindness and that it feels nice BOTH to do something kind and to have something kind done for you.
Activity #2: Kindness reads
I’ve written two books that are perfect for this lesson. Select which book to read and discuss based on the age level of your students.
Mitzvah Pizza is a picture book inspired by a real-life pay-it-forward pizza shop in Philadelphia. In this fictional tale, a young girl meets a new friend who utilizes an altruistic pay-it-forward program to purchase her pizza. The young girl realizes she and her new friend are more similar than different, and her feelings of empathy inspire her to do something kind for others.
Operation Frog Effectis a middle-grade novel about eight diverse students, one out-of-the-box teacher, a class pet frog, and their project to understand social issues. They learn to stand up for what’s right and find their voices. It’s written in eight points of view including one in graphic novel format. The “Frog Effect” in the title is based on the “Butterfly Effect”—a theory that everything we do in this world can impact others in positive or negative ways. Read aloud the following pages: 151-153.
Activity #3: Massive kindness math problem
- One student does 1 kind thing for 1 other person? How many kind things do students calculate?
- Each student in your class does a kind thing for 1 other person, and that person does 1 kind thing for 1 other person. Calculate the number of kind things in all.
- Each student in class does kind things for 2 other people, and those people do a kind thing for 2 other people. How many kind things will be done in all?
- Every student does kind things for 5 other people, and those people do a kind thing for 5 other people. How many kind things will be done in all?
Now here’s where it gets fun.
- What if it just keeps on going? If EVERY single person who receives something kind goes on to do something kind for two more people, how long would it take for this pay it forward movement to touch the life of every single student in your grade? What about every single student in your school? (Etc.)
*Modify or extend based on your students’ math levels.
Activity #4: Brainstorming
Ask students to think of a list of kind things they can do for others. This activity can be done with seat partners, large groups, or in journals.
Activity #5: Put kindness into practice
- Challenge your students to say or do something kind to five people today.
- Pay-it-Forward Bingo. Create a Bingo sheet with kind things kids can do for each other, for teachers, at home, or for the school. Leave some “wild card openings”.
- For More Extension Activities
- Operation Frog Effect – Activities to incorporate Language Arts, History, and Social-Emotional Learning opportunities
- Operation Frog Effect Mix and Match Challenge
Sarah is a school-based mental health provider who LOVES organic ways to incorporate SEL. She’s an author of eight books, ranging from picture books to middle-grade and young adult novels. Sarah loves school visits (in person or virtual). Her middle-grade novel, OPERATION FROG EFFECT, has been nominated for multiple awards. Find Sarah on the web at www.sarahlynnbooks.com or on Twitter at @sarahscheerger.