Early in the school year we compare our self-esteem to a growing plant. A plant that is watered and looked after flourishes in the same way a person who is treated kindly and with respect will flourish. We are very like plants in this way. Give us our basic needs and we will survive, but every living thing, with just a little extra attention, will thrive. That is my goal. I want each and every one of my students to not only grow during their time with me, but to thrive!
In my 2nd and 3rd grade classroom, we do a variety of things every single day to grow each others' Heart Gardens:
We begin each day with a Heart Garden Challenge. I have a large collection of random acts of kindness that I challenge my students to achieve by the end of the school day. These range from helping a classmate out with a job in the classroom to cheering up a fellow student on the playground to thanking a custodian for keeping our school clean.
Throughout the day, as my students recognize the heart-growing deeds of others, they are welcome to complete Heart Garden messages to share with their peers. These small messages of thanks take only moments to complete, but mean the world to the students. Generally, both the student giving the message and the student receiving it are absolutely beaming with pride. I can't tell you how awesome it is to see those looks on their little faces! (You'll have to try it and see for yourself!)
As the Heart Garden messages are written I post them on our tree and we watch it grow throughout the school year. Last year, it got so large I needed a ladder to post them and this year we're on track to have an even larger display!
My students put great pride in recognizing others for the ways they "tend" their Heart Garden. Just this week one of my kiddos wrote ME a letter all about how I grow his Heart Garden. This is a keeper:
This little peep can't possibly know how special it was to me to receive this letter... Heart Garden GROWING!!
Finally, at the end of every day, my students thank a classmate for something nice or helpful that was done for them. It always amazes me that children as young as my students can move beyond the superficial "Thanks for playing with me at recess." and really find special reasons to thank a classmate. I'm also impressed with how students who aren't fast friends will reach out to each other. That grows MY Heart Garden!
I love hearing from teachers who are using my resources in their own classrooms, but this particular one is particularly awesome since it is so close to my own heart! I have yet to hear a negative comment about this from anyone, and am thrilled that it was featured on our local news! Thanks to Caitlin for sharing her experiences with us!!
A Heart Garden takes little space or prep. It is simply about creating an atmosphere of caring and is very easy to do. I have created an entire package full of teaching ideas and activities around building a Heart Garden in your classroom. Click the image to grab a copy of your own!