In her Global Experience class this spring, Kier assigned her students a semester-long project that would reintroduce goodness to campus and the community.
“As a sociologist, I can say sociologists look at the world differently, not as rosily,” she said. “Frankly, I think we live in a mean culture, and I wanted to bring about a cultural change through this project, so we can move more towards kindness and away from individualism.”
Called the Kindness Project, the assignment requires Kier and her students to perform 26 acts of kindness apiece throughout the semester, resulting in the completion of 676 acts of kindness.
“I made the decision to do this because the events at Sandy Hook really, really affected me,” Kier said. “My best friend works at a private school in Connecticut, and it isn’t very far away from Newtown; this could have happened at her school. And I’m a mom, and I couldn’t stop thinking about those kids. Every kid has potential, and they’re gone now, so we owe it to them to be their potential. Their deaths could not have happened without anyone responding.”
Kier and her class collaborated to establish the terms of the project. Together, they decided one could not perform the same act 26 times, but one could perform the same act twice. Further, half of one’s acts could not involve money, and each individual had to perform half of his or her acts by spring break. Lastly, the class determined there was not a certain level of kindness they had to perform, but rather, their actions just had to have a positive effect on either a person or an animal.
“I was concerned about students buying into this,” Kier said. “So, I figured if I allowed them to set many of the parameters, it would help them buy into it.”
To spread the word about the project, Kier and her students created a course blog. Kier also posted her class’s project onto a “26 Acts of Kindness” Facebook page NBC reporter Ann Curry and Warren Alan Tidwell created in order to gain national attention.
On the blog, participants post short stories about the acts they perform, and they elaborate on the implications their actions have on others.
In addition to their individual posts, Kier and her class wrote an opening blog post together that briefly explains the project and its purpose. As Kier and her students post their individual accounts, each person tags the post with his or her name and the number of the act they are performing. Students can choose to dedicate an act of kindness to one of the Newtown Elementary School victims, or they can simply perform an act spontaneously.
“To change the culture at large, you have to reach a lot of people,” she said. “I wanted this to be available, so it could be read by other people. Also, I didn’t want our presentation to be blah; I wanted to add a little personality to it.”
To read the full story on Kier and her students’ Kindness Project, check out the article on E-Net.