Research results from Madison schools suggest compassion, kindness can be taught












As soon as teacher Kim Smith mentioned “belly buddies,” 16 little bodies dropped to the classroom floor and fell silent. The children arranged themselves in a circle on their backs. Smith gave each one a small rock — the belly buddy — to rest on his or her stomach.

“Watch it go up and down as you take your belly breaths and calm your body,” said Smith, who teaches 4-year-old kindergarten at Stephens Elementary School in Madison.

The exercise, done regularly in Smith’s classroom, is part of a “kindness curriculum” developed at UW-Madison. By helping children focus on what’s happening to their bodies, the hypothesis goes, they will learn to respond with more compassion and less anger when they’re frustrated


The empathy these children are beginning to show is really amazing for 4-year-olds,” she said. “If someone drops a bucket of crayons, practically the whole class rushes to help out.”
By Doug Erickson


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