SPARKLERS / Kindness & friendship

The Empathy Effect

Demonstrating how our actions impact others.
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Why we love it

This activity visually shows how people are impacted by our actions - both negative and positive!

Tikanga tips

We have chosen for this a name that is quite uncommon amongst school children these days (Jill). If, however, you do have a student in your class called Jill, we recommend choosing another name.

What to do

You'll need two balls of different coloured wool e.g.one blue and one pink.

The aim of this activity is to create a web with the wool to show the tangled implications of our actions and behaviour.

Form a circle and give one student the ball of wool and ask them to find and hold the end.

When any character's name is mentioned e.g 'the teacher' or 'Jill', students must pass the ball on, but hold the 'line' and only throw the remaining ball, so that the ball is unravelling through the story! Gently throwing the wool across the circle works well to form the web. If Jill's name is mentioned twice in a row, the wool will move with every mention of her name.

.Read tamariki the short story below. Let them know that this is completely made up:

The school bell rings to end school time. The teacher lets the class go saying, "See you all tomorrow."

All the tamariki rush to their bags, there is some giggling as they arrive. Jill isn’t sure what’s up, but on approaching her own bag sees it’s been written on with black vivid pen. In big capital letters it says ‘ JILL’S A WEIRDO!!’

Jill snatches up her bag and immediately leaves the school to get home, running to hide her embarrassment and the hurt she is feeling.

Her school bag was new. It was a birthday present from her grandma just the week before. While part-running Jill desperately attempts to rub away the words, it’s impossible.

Feeling frustrated and upset, she biffs the bag and all of its contents down the bank and into the stream.

Running behind is Ben, one of her classmates. He really wants to try and help. He sees her throw her bag away and stops.

Jill walks home with nothing, she tells a story to her parents and her grandma about losing her bag. They are angry with her and ring the school to try to locate the bag. Her teacher has not yet reported the incident and another teacher answering the phone simple says that there is no sign of it being 'handed in'.

After a miserable sleep, Jill has to face school the next day. She feigns a sore tummy, but her Dad (who is still mad with her), doesn't buy it and makes her go to school carrying a supermarket bag with her lunch.

Change the wool colour now to indicate the change from negative to positive actions and outcomes.

At the gate Jill is met by two of her friends, Beth and Anne. Beth is quick to say she hated yesterday and what had happened and Anne gives Jill a hug. They are overly keen to get Jill to school, Jill is really worried about how today with play out.

On arrival to their classroom, there is a new sign over the entrance, Jill can't make it out, but as they approach it clearly states 'Jill is AMAZING!' She cannot believe it!

It's obvious the incident has caused a stir, people are stopping to look at Jill, some are waving out, Anne and Beth stick close either side. In their classroom, it too has been decorated - banners line the walls all stating 'Jill is AMAZING!'. Her teacher approaches and offers a hug. Jill gladly accepts and can't help but cry. She is overwhelmed with so many emotions. Her teacher whispers she has rung her parents this morning, and as Jill peers over her teacher's shoulder, she can see they are watching on - Grandma too. She runs to them, apologising for her lies.

Her classmates then present her with a new school bag. Anne excitedly tells her to open it. Inside is a new lunchbox and drink bottle, and screeds of coloured paper pieces, folded into quarters. She opens one "I really like the way you support the younger kids with kapa haka - when they get stuck they look to you because they trust you will help them, and you do."

Her teacher comes forward. "There is one page for each of your classmates," she says. "They all say what they admire and like about you."

Let tamariki know this is where the story ends. It was never determined who wrote on Jill's bag despite the teacher's attempts to find out. You may like to discuss why focussing on 'who did it' may be unhelpful because it takes the focus away from the positivity.

Let tamariki reflect on the web of wool - what does this tell us?

Ask tamariki what are three things they have learned from this activity?

Hopefully (!) -

  • The way we treat people is important and has a big impact on them and others.
  • Even when no-one owns up to behaving badly, the way others behave can make a big difference.
  • Kind actions can really help to turn a negative situation around and make people feel good.

What next?

Try other kindness activities from Sparklers.

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