The Heart Garden: Character Education With Heart

In my classroom, we don't fill imaginary buckets. We tend and cultivate and nurture self-esteem and confidence and positive attitudes. We grow Heart Gardens.

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!

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!

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!




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.

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!

Note: This resource was fully-updated in spring 2018 with fresh, new fonts and additional resources!

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. 

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!

Throughout the day, I also "catch" my students doing things for others and they get to clip their name to our character clip chart.


Anyone with a clip on the chart at the end of the day receives a sticker in their agenda.

My students put great pride in recognizing others for the ways they "tend" their Heart Garden. This is a keeper:

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!

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!

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!




Amber H. says,
My students LOVE this. We spend an entire quarter learning about plants, and students were quick to make the connection to kindness and empathy. We have it in the common space between all of our 2nd grade classrooms, and the other classrooms are wanting to add to the garden. So sweet.

Erin M. says,
This is FANTASTIC. My kiddos were struggling this year to show kindness and compassion to each other and this has really helped. 

 Caitlin D. says,
My Class is LOVING this! 2nd week and they are already telling me and their peers when the heart garden is full or wilting! Thank you!

Kristin C. says,
 I LOVE this!! What a great alternative for bucket filling for little ones! I have the tree on the wall in my room. I have introduced all of the ways to make the heart garden grow and they are earning their hearts on the tree!! It's very reinforcing for the kids.

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!




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!

Photo of Heart Garden clip chart, posters, heart tree, and challenges with text that says, "The Heart Garden: Character and Self-Esteem in the Elementary Classroom."

If you've enjoyed this post, please pin the image below to share with friends and colleagues!

Character education in elementary classrooms is much more than bucket filling. Teach your students to appreciate the good deeds and kindnesses shown by their classmates with a Heart Garden: a year-long character education program that includes activities, growing character display, posters and more!

10 comments

  1. Beautiful! When we read the bucket filling book in our classroom I always talk to the kids about how the bucket is actually their heart. Kids get it. Nice post and I love your tree!

    :) Shelley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Shelley! I absolutely love watching how it grows and how the students take ownership of it throughout the year! They're SO proud of it already!

      ~Erin

      Delete
  2. This is awesome - thank you so much for the inspiration - I LOVE this idea!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! :) This is my second year doing this and I love it more each day!!

      ~Erin

      Delete
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