Our heartwork program has become very special to both our students and our teachers in just a few years. Heartwork is homework (or in-class work for kindergarten and first-grade students) that engages students in what it means to be a good person. Projects have included:
• Writing letters of support to children whose parents serve in the military
• Making art projects in which students fill one-half of a heart with images or text of things that are important to them and the other side with personal qualities that are important to them
• Compiling “Five Things I Pledge To Myself,” a list of personal qualities they hope to demonstrate as adults
• Selecting inspirational quotes to adorn the doors and walls of our Lower School buildings
Heartwork, which started in the 2008–2009 school year, was inspired by the Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington. There, teachers learned how empathy and compassion develop in the brain, how to create a consciousness for empathy, and ways to teach empathy in schools. A conference panelist remarked, “What children need is more heartwork, not more homework,” and our program was born. In 2008, heartwork was launched in the fourth grade and quickly spread to grades 2–5. Heartwork now replaces homework one night a week and happens in-class for kindergarten and first grade.