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The Kindness Experiment

“In Bible class, we were studying about kindness, and how it is contagious,” she says. “We wanted to see if it really works.”

Ms. Miranda Starr, the principal and teacher at Parkersburg Academy in West Virginia, wanted to do an experiment with her first and second grade students.

“In Bible class, we were studying about kindness, and how it is contagious,” she says. “We wanted to see if it really works.”

Then Ms. Starr had an idea—why not go to Eagle Pointe, a nearby nursing home, where the students could practice reading and make friends with the older people?

She liked singing for the people, but she and her students wanted to do something more for them—to become real friends. That’s when she got the reading idea.

Ms. Starr shared her idea with her students, and all of the children were excited and wanted to learn how to read so that they could read to their new friends at Eagle Pointe. By January the students were reading well enough to begin their “kindness experiment.”

Happy to Share

“We go to Eagle Pointe every other Friday,” explains Ben, who is eight years old. “We sing to the whole group, and we read to our partners.”

“It wasn’t hard to pick our partners,” said Reagan, who is 7. “We saw them, looked at their faces, and then chose the one that we liked!”

Every time they go to Eagle Pointe, the students get to choose the book or books that they want to read to their partner. Sometimes, if they finish reading the books that they brought, they trade books with another student and then read the new books to their friend at Eagle Pointe.

As the students read, they are also developing friendships. “My partner’s name is Miss Jane,” says Sophia, who is 6. “One day I was reading to her about animal tracks, and I read about a red fox. She told me that she once had a red fox as a pet!”

The people at Eagle Pointe are very happy when the children come to read to them, and the students are happy, too. “I like seeing my partner smile,” Ben said.

Kindness Comes Back

The students in grades 3 to 8 also come to Eagle Pointe and read to their new friends. “I really like going there,” says Ryleigh, who is 9 years old. “There’s one man I read to—Mr. Mark. He’s always happy to see me, and says, ‘God loves you.’ I really like him and wish we could go more often.”

In appreciation of the students’ visits, Eagle Pointe held a banquet in their honor, and presented Ms. Starr with an award plaque that said: “Junior Volunteers of the Year—Parkersburg Academy. You’ve warmed the hearts of many by the caring that you show. Volunteers are Shining Stars.”

As they think about their “kindness experiment,” Ms. Starr and the students know it was a success. “Kindness did come back. We tried to give them joy, but they gave more to us.”

Have you ever tried a “kindness experiment?” Maybe you and your class can do something like what the students and teachers in Parkersburg did. What other ideas can you think of for a “kindness experiment?”