by Claire Miller
Clinical Assistant Professor Lydia Mays was drawn to the nonprofit organization Life Vest Inside not only because of its message – that positive change can be made every day by demonstrating kindness and compassion – but also because its founder, Orly Wahba, is a teacher.
“I reached out to her and told her I’d love to support her organization’s mission in any way I can,” Mays said. “We started talking about our educational philosophies and I’ve been involved with Life Vest Inside ever since.”
Mays was recently named Chief Officer of Education for the organization and is hard at work on her first project in this role: To create a literacy curriculum that promotes kindness.
This curriculum development project is designed to incorporate themes of kindness into the Common Core State Standards for literacy that educators across the country are already teaching in their classrooms.
“Imagine a student reading a text about showing compassion and by the end of the lesson, they’ve not only learned how to summarize a text but also know the importance of being kind to others,” Mays explained.
Wahba agreed, noting the impact teachers can have by emphasizing kindness in the classroom every day.
“Having been a teacher for 7 years, I have seen firsthand how infusing each lesson with the themes of kindness, empathy and compassion impacts a child,” she said. “If our discussion of character and the importance of kindness is restricted to mere assemblies, then it will never become part of the child’s makeup. This educational curriculum has the ability to teach the children to see the world through different eyes.”
Mays will start by creating lessons for kindergarten through fifth grade classes, which will be piloted in classrooms in Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Manitoba, Canada, starting in January 2013. The organization will collect and analyze data on these lessons from January to May and make the curriculum widely available for the 2013-2014 school year.
Mays also hopes to expand this project to provide middle and high school teachers with a kindness curriculum that builds on what students learn in elementary school.
“By the time they reach 12th grade, students will have had almost 200 lessons with a focus on kindness. That is so powerful,” she said.
For more information about Life Vest Inside’s educational goals, click here.